October 12, 2013
Duluth News Tribune
Denfeld crushes crosstown rival East 56-12
By Louie St. George III
The monkey’s off their back.
With a business-like and multi-faceted rushing attack, the Denfeld Hunters raced past crosstown rival Duluth East 56-12 in a Mississippi 8 Conference game Friday night at Public Schools Stadium.
Gone is the 19-game losing streak.
Gone is the eight-game skid against the Greyhounds.
And gone is two years of frustration for the Hunters, who last appeared in the win column on Sept. 29, 2011.
“It feels good to get a win,” said senior running back Nick Malec, who had 88 of the Hunters’ 357 rushing yards. “It feels like, from now on, that curse is lifted. It’s gone, it’s off our shoulders now.”
A 30-minute lightning delay proved just as defenseless as the Greyhounds when it came to slowing Denfeld (1-6), which looked nothing like a winless team. Ben Halverson led the way with 125 bruising yards on 14 carries (nearly 9 yards per attempt) as the Hunters churned out yards — and chewed up clock — at a methodical rate.
Halverson, best known for his straight-ahead, no-nonsense running style, needed his own box score Friday. Aside from his big night carrying the ball, the senior’s first-quarter 24-yard fumble return for a touchdown made it 13-0 Denfeld. Halverson also caught a pass for 10 yards, grabbed a second-half interception and kicked two extra points.
He did everything but sing the national anthem.
“This guy is the glue of how we run things,” Hunters coach Frank Huie said.
The Hunters, whose offense is predicated on pre-snap motion and oodles of misdirection, got off to a much-needed quick start. Connor Behm, one of 10 Denfeld backs to carry the ball, went in from 34 yards out to cap a game-opening drive that lasted five minutes and netted 90 rushing yards.
On its first possession after the lightning delay, Halverson found the end zone on a 13-yard scamper just before halftime to give the Hunters a 21-0 lead at the break.
“Absolutely important,” Huie said when asked of the necessity of starting fast. “With all the scars, all the losses and all the close calls, it had to be definite.”
The Greyhounds (0-7) were playing without senior running back Brian Lansing, who had racked up 731 rushing yards and 945 all-purpose yards before suffering a thumb injury two weeks ago. Without Lansing, East had a tough time sustaining any kind of rhythm on offense. Quarterback Alex Legarde completed eight of 16 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, but the Greyhounds’ offense too often was one-dimensional.
“Brian Lansing is an exceptional football player and a great athlete,” East coach Joe Hietala said. “He absolutely would have helped us. Any team that loses one of their key pieces, it’s going to hurt.”
While losing Lansing stung, Hietala said Denfeld is much better than its record indicates.
“Watching Denfeld on film — we’ve seen pretty much every game they played this year — they’re a good football team,” Hietala said. “I think they’re far better than an 0-6 team coming into this game. They took it to us.”
Behm, Halverson and Malec each had two touchdowns, while quarterback Greg Gustafson had a rushing TD to go with six completions for 72 yards.
East’s Derek Donald caught a 48-yard pass for a score early in the third quarter, but the Hunters put the game away by erupting for 21 points in the third.
Huie said his team finally realized its potential Friday. The Hunters had more than 300 yards of total offense in the first half last week against Big Lake, but scored only twice in an eventual 34-12 setback. Against their rivals, the Hunters finally put all facets of their running game together.
“When you play against schools a class higher than you, it’s kind of hard to unleash them,” Huie said of his deep collection of running backs. “Still, they get unleashed once in a while. There are so many weapons, it’s just a matter of getting them a block and giving them a chance to run because they can all run.”
Friday, they ran to a win two years in the making.
Duluth East ............... 0-0-12-0—12
Denfeld .................... 13-8-21-14—56
DD — Connor Behm 34 run (pass failed)
DD — Ben Halverson 24 fumble return (Halverson kick)
DD — Halverson 13 run (Alex Larson pass from Greg Gustafson)
DE — Derek Donald 48 pass from Alex Legarde (pass failed)
DD — Nick Malec 1 run (Gustafson run)
DD — Behm 4 run (Halverson kick)
DE — Cooper Carlson 51 run (run failed)
DD — Malec 2 run (kick failed)
DD — Gustafson 1 run (Sjon Randa pass from Gustafson)
DD — Nate Nason 12 run (kick failed)