Cloquet senior Parker McArthur broke free for a 35-yard touchdown run with about two minutes to play to seal a 30-15 victory over Two Harbors in the Lumberjacks’ home opener Friday.
The Lumberjacks offense had struggled throughout the first half and even into the third quarter, but found its footing in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 unanswered points to put the Agates away.
Cloquet trailed Two Harbors 9-8 at halftime, but the Lumberjacks were fortunate to trail by just one.
Cloquet took the lead early on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Bottila to Tony Johnson to take an 8-0 lead in the first quarter, but Lumberjacks struggled in the second quarter.
Agate quarterback Cole Komarek answered with a 41-yard touchdown pass of his own to Jacob Keech, but a missed extra point left the Agates down two points with about five minutes left in the first half.
Cloquet fumbled the snap on the first play from scrimmage setting up a 22-yard Two Harbors field goal by senior Jake Van Kekerix with less than a minute left in the half.
The Lumberjacks mishandled the kick off, setting the Agates up again in Cloquet territory. Two Harbors couldn’t move the ball and ended the half up just a point.
Two Harbors received the ball to start the second half, but a bad snap on a punt set Cloquet up at the Agate 32-yard line. Two plays later senior Derek Rengo ran the ball in from six yards out to give the lead back to Cloquet 16-9.
Two Harbors drove the ball back down the field — aided by two Lumberjack penalties that gave the Agates a first down — and scored on a 2-yard Van Kekerix run to make the lead 16-15.
From there, however, Cloquet’s offense found its footing with Rengo extending the lead on a 3-yard Bottila touchdown run and McArthur iced the game with his 35-yard scamper.
The Lumberjacks finished with 211 yards rushing, led by Rengo’s 97 yards on 12 attempts.
Cloquet coach Tom Lenarz acknowledged some mental errors that his team will need to clean up over the next couple games, but he was proud of the way the Lumberjacks responded to the adversity.
“We knew we were going to go through some growing pains tonight. We start a number of juniors and this was their first varsity game,” Lenarz said. “We had some missed assignments, some mental errors ... I credit my kids, they really played hard. We didn’t play smart all the time, but we played hard.
Two Harbors coach Tom Nelson was also pleased with the way his team played even in a loss. Despite starting three sophomores on the offensive line, the Agates amassed 218 yards on the ground, led by senior Sam Johns with 108 yards on 25 attempts.
“I was so proud of the way our kids played,” Nelson said. “We’re not happy with the loss, but I’m proud of our fight, I’m proud that we didn’t roll over and die.”
Cloquet (1-0) will play at Hermantown at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6. The Hawks beat Cloquet 20-14 in the 2018 Section 7AAAA title game.
Two Harbors (0-1) will host Pine City at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6.
Two Harbors 0-9-0-6—15
C — Tony Johnson 14 pass from Dalton Bottila (Derek Rengo run)
TH — Jacob Keech 41 pass from Cole Komarek (kick failed)
TH — Jake Van Kekerix 22 field goal
C — Rengo 6 run (Rengo run)
TH — Van Kekerix 2 run (run failed)
C — Bottila 3 run (Markus Pokornowski run)
C — Parker McArthur 37 run (run failed)