Not long into Friday's Class 4A semifinal against South St. Paul, Cloquet's offensive linemen recommended a change in strategy.
The big guys felt they were pushing the Packers around, so why not run quarterback Tim Pokornowski more often?
Coaches listened, then watched as the Lumberjacks plowed ahead for a 40-21 victory. Cloquet (12-0) advances to play Holy Angels in the Prep Bowl at 4 p.m. on Nov. 24, its first championship game appearance since 1976.
"We talked about throwing the ball for balance but then felt, 'Why not do what we've been doing best the past few weeks?' " Lumberjacks coach Tom Lenarz said.
Pokornowski ran 21 times for 179 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown, in the first half alone. He finished with a career-high 249 yards as the Lumberjacks rushed for 408 yards and four scores.
"The offensive line created huge holes and I just hit them," Pokornowski said.
If anyone could appreciate a punishing ground game, it's South St. Paul.
"They mauled us," South St. Paul coach Chad Sexauer said. "They were flat-out physically dominant up front."
South St. Paul (9-3) cut its deficit to 21-14 in the second quarter on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Cade Sexauer to Alex Rabello. But Cloquet answered with Pokornowski's big touchdown run. Two drives later, South St. Paul threw an interception that led to a Cloquet field goal and 30-14 halftime lead.
"Those were big plays that boosted our confidence," Pokornowski said. "Our plan was to make them throw because we thought that gave us our best chance."