Denfeld News

Sept. 1, 2007
Duluth News Tribune

Hermantown uses big second half to get a win
By Andy Greder

Hermantown quarterback Koby Wargin’s cadence of “down, set” was supposed to be followed by 11 pairs of squeaky tennis shoes on the gym floor at precisely 5:35 p.m. Friday.

That walk-through is part of coach Daryl Illikainen’s game plan, and every Hawks football player knows it because the routine is posted on the locker room chalkboard.

Players arrive by 5 p.m. The team takes the field at 6:20. The kickoff against Duluth Denfeld is at 7. The itinerary concluded with “win, win, win” at 9.

It’s a good thing that Illikainen isn’t intolerant because the final objective wasn’t achieved until 9:20 when Hermantown finished a second-half comeback to beat the Hunters 12-10 in the high school football season opener at Corey Veech Memorial Field.

“We try to lock them into the game,” said Illikainen, in his 11th season as head coach. “Football is so much mental that I try to have guys’ total concentration on the game.”

Hermantown fullback Mike Carlson’s focus began Wednesday.

“I got butterflies two days before,” said the senior, who rushed for two touchdowns to help the Hawks overcome a 10-0 halftime deficit. “[On game day,] I try to get to the locker room way before because it’s quiet and I can meditate.”

Denfeld’s Nate Firestone-Oland kicked a 26-yard field goal and caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Oliver for the 10-0 lead.

“Things were somewhat going our way in the first half,” Illikainen said. “We were playing tough defense, but we stalled on offense. I told them at halftime to keep doing what they were doing because I thought they were bringing the pads.”

Hermantown’s senior running back Joe Krause returned the opening second-half kickoff 54 yards to set up Carlson’s first score.

“The ball took a weird twist on me and I fumbled it and I thought ‘I’m gonna get rocked,’ but there was a hole you could drive a bus through and it gave us a huge boost,” Krause said.

That boost carried over to the postgame celebration. The Hawks took a knee and awaited the arrival of Illikainen, who, of course, was on time to lead the celebration.

“I try to fly in there and lead it,” said Illikainen, of the mosh-pit-like exuberance. “It’s fun, I get excited when we win.”

The postgame celebration is capped by the players’ exit through a path lined with cheerleaders, friends, family and fans.

“It’s what makes three weeks of practice — every bruise, cut — worth it,” said Krause, a senior running back/defensive end.

For Illikainen, the rah-rah of the postgame is more than simple fun, it’s about building school spirit and a team.

“We’re trying to get that school spirit back,” said Illikainen, an assistant hockey coach. “I love it when kids get excited about Hermantown. Things are going in a great direction.”

The focus soon will turn serious. Hermantown travels to rival Proctor next Friday.

“I don’t have to tell you what’s going on next week,” Illikainen said in the team’s postgame huddle. “We’re gonna bring another win home next week!”

Denfeld 0-10-0-0—10
Hermantown 0-0-6-6—12

D — Nate Firestone-Oland 26 field goal
D — Firestone-Oland 30 pass from Charlie Oliver (Firestone-Oland kick)
H — Mike Carlson 2 run (kick failed)
H — Carlson 1 run (kick failed)

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