Tied with South St. Paul at seven after one quarter the Cloquet Lumberjacks put up 23 points in the second quarter to take control of the final 4A semi-final game of the 2017 season. The Lumberjack defense would take over from there, and Cloquet advanced to the championship game for the first time in 41 years with a 40-21 victory.
The undeniable star of the game was Lumberjack quarterback Tim Pokornowski. He is much more of a threat to run than pass, but what a threat to run he is. He ran for nearly 250 yards. He is built like you would think a quarterback should be. He is fairly tall and lean, but he doesn't run like it. Some of his many highlights included making a pair of defenders miss in the backfield for a short gain. Then on a third and five, the Packers thought they had him bottled up, but he avoided the defenders and picked up a first down. Jordon Peil and Zachary Dunaiski opened up a hole in the middle, and Pokornowski used his straight-line speed for a 30 yard gain.
He didn't just beat the Packers with his legs. Pokornowski ran the option and set his running backs up with his decision making. One play he held the ball as long as possible and pitched the ball just as he was being hit by a defender. He didn't attempt many passes, but his best throw was a strike off play action. He found Aahsan Maigag for a 45-yard touchdown right down the middle of the field.
Maigag made plays on both sides of the ball. He had a long run off tackle behind a trap block from Luke Konietzko and then broke up a pass in the secondary.
Mitchell Gerlach made a catch in the flat and got good blocking from his wide receivers for a first down. Then on the ground, he broke a number of tackles to pick up a first down.
Spencer Wehr did a little bit of everything for the Lumberjacks. He made a tough run in the middle behind Peil. He threw a nice block of his own to spring his quarterback for a touchdown. It didn't result in a touchdown, but Wehr threw another block to spring Pokornowski on a long run. After receiving the option pitch, he broke a tackle and used some excellent footwork on the sidelines to pick up extra yards.
On defense, Wehr stopped the option for a loss and made another tackle for a short gain.
The only way to have as dominant a running game as the Lumberjacks had is to have a dominating performance from their big offensive line.
Konietzko threw a big block that sprung Pokornowski. His pancake on a trap block opened a hole in the middle of the line. He combined with Trent Taubman and Dunaiski on the inside to pick up big chunks on the ground.
Dylan Lauer opened a hole for a short touchdown run, and defensively he stuffed a run from a defensive tackle spot.
Bryce Turnbull made the key block to spring Pokornowski on yet another long run.
The Lumberjacks also got points from their kicking game. Elijah Benson kicked a 21-yard field goal and then a 24-yard field goal. He also connected on four of his five extra points.
Midway through the second quarter, the Packers scored their second touchdown. They would not score again until the game was in hand.
Peil stuffed a run up the middle.
Turnbull made two tackles for short gains and then added a tackle for loss on an option run. Later he would track down a running back in the backfield.
Brady Doran sacked the quarterback, and then more pressure from the defensive line led to a forced throw. Another hurried pass resulted in an interception for linebacker Joshua Bushey.
Jayden Schneberger did his fellow linebacker one better. He caught a ball that was rifled over the middle that Schneberger caught from about ten yards away from the quarterback. Earlier in the game, he stripped the ball away from the running back allowing Gerlach to recover the fumble.
Jordan Bolos made a one on one tackle in the open field for a short gain.
On fourth down Riley Leslie was in coverage in the end zone, and he got his hands on the ball to knock down a possible touchdown pass. Fellow defensive back Alex Leuzzo was in tight coverage at corner.
Cloquet will play the Academy of Holy Angels next week in the title game.