October 11, 2013
Duluth News Tribune
Duluth East, Denfeld football teams look for first win
By Louie St. George III
The way Duluth Denfeld football coach Frank Huie bounded onto the Public Schools Stadium turf Thursday afternoon for his team’s pregame practice would seem to indicate the Hunters are immersed in a magical campaign.
“Hey, it’s another great day for Denfeld football!” Huie bellowed.
Huie and the Hunters were all smiles at sun-drenched PSS despite a season that can best be described as trying. Once again, the Mississippi 8 Conference has proven to be unforgiving, and Denfeld is 0-6 entering tonight’s crosstown showdown against rival Duluth East, which also is 0-6.
The Hunters, in fact, are looking for their first victory since Sept. 29, 2011.
Huie, in his second year of his second stint leading Denfeld, admitted it’s been a chore to keep his players upbeat. Their willingness to keep working hard, he said, has made that task easier.
“Totally frustrated, but you can’t brow-beat these kids — they’re trying,” Huie said. “If I thought it was lack of effort or lack of coaching, or just laziness on our part, then I’d be disappointed.
“Are we playing as hard as we can? We think for the most part we are. Are we doing everything we can? I think we’re trying to, yeah. In that respect, we come out every day, and football’s a fun game. It’s supposed to be fun, so these two hours have to be fun.”
The Greyhounds’ Joe Hietala can sympathize with his coaching counterpart. East is winless since a 33-8 triumph over Denfeld in September 2012. Senior running back Brian Lansing, one of the area’s leading rushers, had been a bright spot for Hietala’s team. However, a thumb injury two weeks ago has sidelined Lansing, and his return this season is in question.
“It is (frustrating), especially when you look at the scoreboard on Friday nights and things aren’t going anywhere near what we had expected,” Hietala said. “But I give our guys a lot of credit. Players and coaches come back to work on Mondays ready to go and ready to improve.”
Certainly, being in Class AAAAA doesn’t help the Greyhounds. Nor does a steady diet of Mississippi 8 opponents, the majority of whom take their football quite seriously. Hietala said it’s taken a while for the Greyhounds and Hunters to get acclimated to the elevated caliber of play in one of the state’s toughest Class AAAAA conferences.
Against talented teams, Huie agreed, every mistake is magnified. Thus, a good series here or a good half there isn’t enough, and that’s what he has stressed leading into tonight’s game against the more familiar Greyhounds.
Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at PSS, where Denfeld will try to beat East for the first time since 2004. The game gives both clubs a chance to salvage a silver lining in an otherwise turbulent season.
“We want to beat East, no matter if we’re undefeated or haven’t won a game,” Huie said.
“I think there’s a little more spring in everybody’s step just knowing we have Denfeld, a rivalry and a crosstown game,” Hietala said.
While Huie has been sure to address the importance of stealing bragging rights tonight, he said he’s refrained from discussing the Hunters’ 19-game losing streak.
“We don’t talk about losing streaks no more than we talk about a winning streak,” Huie said. “We talk about the next opponent, the next game.”