October 27, 2013
Duluth News Tribune
Hermantown edges Denfeld in 7AAAA semifinal
By Louie St. George III
Brock Taylor looks nothing like an offensive tackle.
The wiry 6-footer sports a slighter frame than the running backs he blocks for, but Taylor and his “anti-hogs” make up for their lack of bulk with athleticism rarely found along the offensive line.
Saturday night, the little guys with the big motors paved the way for Hermantown to pile up more than 300 yards rushing in a 29-20 victory over visiting Duluth Denfeld in a Section 7AAAA semifinal.
“Normally left tackles are big, big guys, but I do my best,” the 6-foot-0, 180-pound Taylor said. “I just have to be physical. I kind of consider myself an underdog, so I just have to prove myself out there on the field.”
The Hawks’ wing-T offense doesn’t require space-clearing 300-pounders up front. Instead, it stresses speed and quickness among its linemen, who spend almost as much time running — via trap and pull blocks — as the guys they’re trying to spring.
As Taylor stood next to standout Hermantown running back Zach Royer on Saturday night, it was hard to tell who the lineman was and who the halfback was.
A quick glance at the stat sheet cleared up any confusion.
Royer carried the ball 24 times for 214 yards, including 144 in the first half, and two touchdowns. The senior, who upped his season rushing tally to 1,232 yards, broke a half-dozen tackles on his way to an 18-yard TD run midway through the second quarter that gave the Hawks a 15-8 lead.
And while that run is worthy of a spot on Hermantown’s highlight film, it was Royer’s final dash that left fans shaking their heads. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Hawks clinging to a 21-14 lead, Royer took a handoff and started left before changing direction and squirting through a plethora of Denfeld defenders in the Hawks backfield. Upon seeing a glimmer of daylight, Royer bounced outside and raced 45 yards for a score that put the game on ice.
“They had me wrapped up, and I just kept my feet moving and I somehow got out of it,” Royer said. “When I saw it open, I took that opening and went all the way.”
Royer seldom shows emotion, but that play had the bulldozing back doing a little shimmy in the end zone.
“Something about that touchdown just got the best of me,” Royer said.
The Hunters (2-8) brought their own punishing running back into the game, and Ben Halverson followed up his 290-yard effort in Tuesday’s playoff-opening win over Hibbing with 128 physical yards. The senior was crucial down the stretch for Denfeld, which entered Saturday’s semifinal having won two of three.
Despite being the fifth seed in 7AAAA, the Hunters had every intention of upsetting top-seeded Hermantown (8-1). They simply didn’t have an answer for Royer or Jake Haedrich, who had 12 carries for 87 yards.
“We fully expected to be in a battle and we fully expected to win,” Denfeld coach Frank Huie said. “We’re just heartbroken about some of the execution. Effort was not an issue. It wasn’t an effort issue, it was more of an execution issue.”
The Hunters took an 8-7 lead on Connor Behm’s 11-yard TD run early in the second quarter, but the Hawks responded with Royer’s 18-yard touchdown and a backbreaking 73-yard score by Paul Glowacki, who made a one-handed grab of quarterback Kole Zuidmulder’s screen pass and took it the distance on a third-and-13 play.
It was Glowacki’s second touchdown of the night and it pushed Hermantown’s lead to 21-8 late in the third quarter.
Alex Larson hauled in a 2-yard TD from Greg Gustafson to bring the Hunters within 21-14 with 2:39 remaining, but it was too little, too late.
Hawks coach Daryl Illikainen wasn’t surprised that the two-win Hunters went toe-to-toe with his team.
“I knew that Denfeld, whatever their record is, plays in a good conference, they’re well coached. We knew this was going to be a battle,” said Illikainen, whose team advances to Friday’s section final against No. 2 Cloquet. “I expected everything just like this, right down to the end. I knew it was going to be a great semifinal game.”
Duluth Denfeld 0-8-0-12—20
H — Paul Glowacki 5 pass from Kole Zuidmulder (Zuidmulder kick)
DD — Connor Behm 11 run (Alex Larson pass from Greg Gustafson)
H — Zach Royer 18 run (Erik VanBaalen run)
H — Glowacki 73 pass from Zuidmulder (run failed)
DD — Larson 2 pass from Gustafson (pass failed)
H — Royer 45 run (VanBaalen run)
DD — Sjon Randa 24 pass from Gustafson (pass failed)