By Dan Ninham
The cooperative soccer program of the CEC HS Lumberjacks, 2022 Minnesota Section 7AA Champions, consists of high school teams from Cloquet, Esko and Carlton. The team began the season with a 9-0 victory versus Proctor on August 25 followed by two 1-0 losses to Columbia Heights and Mounds View a few days later. Then followed an undefeated September and October with a 15 game winning streak.
The CEC Lumberjacks defeated St. Cloud Tech 3-1 in the 2022 Class AA state tournament quarterfinals at the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis before losing the next round to eventual state champion DeLaSalle 4-0. The Lumberjacks defeated Richfield 3-0 for third place and ended 18-3 for the season.
There were four indigenous athletes on the CEC Lumberjacks this past season. They included Fond du Lac Ojibwe descendants and brothers Mason Sundquist, junior, and Max Sundquist, sophomore, Sander Tibbetts, junior, and sophomore Rizal Agaton Howes, Fond du Lac Ojibwe and Muskogee.
John Sundquist, 11-year varsity soccer head coach and head coach of the CEC HS team and staff have developed the team to be state level.
“You can’t quantify the value our indigenous players brought to the team this year,” said Coach John Sundquist. “Whether it was the role players knowing their value and coming onto the field in crucial times of the game to seal the win or to make something positive happen, to the players playing the entire game and being a staple on the field.”
“It was a special group and special team to be a part of. The work ethic on and off the field was even more impressive,” added Coach Sundquist.
Coach Sundquist’s sons Mason and Max were a significant part of the team this past season.
“Sports have always been one of the highlights of my life,” said Mason Sundquist. “They’ve taught me routine, discipline, and how to improve in general.”
“Whether it be a good practice or winning the section championship, it’s been an incredible experience so far and I’m excited for what our team and the program as a whole can do in the future,” added Mason.
“I think of how I get to represent a part of myself and a part of my culture by getting the most out of the opportunities I’ve been given through hard work,” said Mason.
“I’ve been very successful in my athletics,” said Max Sundquist. “I’ve been on varsity for every sport as a freshman. I’ve gone to state twice for soccer.”
“I have been playing soccer since I was in kindergarten,” said Sander Tibbetts. “One of the most memorable moments of my soccer career was playing in the USA Cup, where we met a team from Sweden, and saw different teams from all around the world. It was an amazing experience.”
“I am proud to be indigenous, and I want to make my family proud. Something I do is work hard every day so I can perform my very best on the field,” added Tibbetts.
“My athletic experience has always been soccer-focused, although recently I started playing indigenous lacrosse,” said Rizel Agaton Howes. “I started playing soccer when I was four years old, and I’ve played ever since. I’ve always loved the sport, regardless of the level of competition or difficulty.”
“One part of my soccer experience that really bolstered my passion a lot was watching the World Cup in 2018,” said Agaton Howes. “Watching the best of the best battle for the biggest soccer trophy on earth was truly inspirational to me.”
“My indigenous values play a key role for me not only in soccer, but my life,” said Agaton Howes. “The most important value in my soccer career is one of respect. I have the responsibility to respect others. Courage is a very important value to me as well.”
“Soccer is a physical game, but much of it is a battle of wits. I have to challenge myself sometimes to take an extra risk, to give a little more effort. In the game, a little bit of bravery can make a massive impact,” added Agaton Howes.
The indigenous athletes have met their challenges on the way to the 2022 Minnesota Class AA State Tournament and can hang their heads high as the third place champions. There are only two teams that end their seasons with a win and they are striving to be champions next season.