Sept. 2, 2006
Hunters find redemption in opener
By Rick Weegman
Ian Meagher and Jimmy Schofield ran off the field
Friday night with much bigger smiles than they did a year ago after
their game against Hermantown.
The Duluth Denfeld defensive backfield duo was
on the field when the Hawks drove 97 yards in the final minutes
in 2005, scoring the winning touchdown with 2.6 seconds left.
Meagher and Schofield and the rest of the defensive
unit that returned this season were determined not to hang their
heads again following the season opener. They made up for it Friday
with a 22-0 victory at Public Schools Stadium.
"That was more than sickening. We thought
we had the game wrapped up," Schofield said of last season's
19-16 loss. "It's been in our minds all week long. We still
remember every single play in the back of our minds, what we could
have done differently."
What they did differently is pressure the offensive
backfield and outplay the Hawks' front line. The Hunters held Hermantown
to 84 yards rushing and 136 total yards. Meagher had two of Denfeld's
"We've been thinking about (last year's loss)
all season," Meagher said. "We wanted to come out and
not let it happen again."
Still, the Hunters' defense had some shaky moments
during fall practice. They had a letdown during a scrimmage against
"The next day we came to practice and had
a team meeting," Meagher said. "We decided it wasn't going
to happen anymore. We've progressed a lot since then."
Meagher intercepted a Drew LeBlanc pass at the
Hunters' 25 with 1 second remaining in the first half to preserve
a 6-0 lead. Denfeld drove 65 yards on six plays on the game's opening
drive, culminating on T.J. McArthur's 10-yard touchdown pass to
Alex Bushey, but netted only one first down the rest of the half.
"We were only down 6-0 at the half, so I
thought our defense was playing tough," Hermantown coach Daryl
Illikainen said. "But we lost all 11 players on offense (from
last season), so we've got a lot of work to do on that side of the
Last year the senior-laden Hawks didn't panic
when they fell behind late in the game and were in the shadow of
their own goal line. But this time was different.
After forcing a punt, the Hunters turned to their
running attack to start the second half. They drove 57 yards on
nine plays -- all runs until McArthur found Trent Biese open for
a 15-yard scoring pass with 4:01 left in the third quarter. Steve
Birman's two-point conversion made it 14-0.
Realizing how few quality offensive chances they
were having, the Hawks decided to go for it on fourth-and-two at
their own 41 on their next possession. But linebacker Anthony Leone
-- another member of that distraught defense that trudged off Hermantown's
field a year ago -- stuffed Dan Bullyan for a 2-yard loss.
Denfeld coach Frank Huie remembers that loss as
much as his players -- it was his head coaching debut after 23 years
as an assistant. He's quick to recall that Hermantown ran 72 plays
to 24 in that game. This time the Hawks only had a 52-to-45 edge
in plays, but averaged just 2.6 yards per play.
"We have a lot of kids back on defense and
they were hungry," Huie said. "We did a good job of controlling
the line of scrimmage (on defense)."
Meagher intercepted another pass late in the third
quarter -- this time by senior Kyle Bolander, who took all of the
second-half snaps for Hermantown -- and Ben Karon did likewise to
end a drive midway through the fourth.
McArthur then scored on a 2-yard keeper to close
"Offensively we got
outmanned up front," Illikainen said. "The first game
the defense probably will be ahead of the offense. But up front
they teed off on us. Physically, I thought we got handled up there."