Denfeld News

Oct. 28, 2009
Duluth News Tribune

Denfeld advances, East falls in football playoffs
By Rick Weegman

Duluth Denfeld coaches joked with C.J. Ham when the 250-pound junior running back jumped over a Hibbing player rather than run over him in Tuesday’s Section 7AAAA high school football game at Public Schools Stadium.

“We were teasing him about that jump because [Vikings running back Adrian] Peterson ran that guy over [in Sunday’s NFL game against Pittsburgh], so every coach said, ‘Why did you jump out of the way? Didn’t you see AP on Sunday?’” head coach Frank Huie said after Denfeld’s 45-20 quarterfinal win. “We gave him a little grief about that.”

Ham didn’t avoid much more contact as the second-seeded Hunters (6-3) won their third straight game and advanced to play sixth-seeded Grand Rapids (3-6) in a semifinal at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Thunderhawks upset Hermantown 32-8.

Denfeld’s win was the only one that went according to form as top-seeded Cloquet, No. 3 Hermantown and No. 4 Duluth East all lost their opening playoff games.

Ham rushed for 99 yards on 14 carries and scored three touchdowns for the Hunters, including a 39-yarder down the left sideline that wrapped up the win late in the third quarter.

“First, I try to run them over, but once I get out in the open I try to use my speed,” Ham said. “I’m not the fastest guy, but I’m not slow either. In my mind, I’m 180 pounds.”

Huie says he likes what he’s seen from Ham, who gained more than 100 yards in last week’s regular-season finale vs. Duluth Central.

“He’s a physical, athletic kid, and the thing I like most about him is how hard he works,” Huie said. “He worked all offseason to get to that size. That wasn’t magical, it was weight room, running and dedication. And you see the end result. He’s a man in a 16-year-old’s body.”

Ham said the running backs’ motto is to not let one defender tackle them. Likewise, fellow back Ivan Dakovic, a 200-pounder, is hard to bring down. That gives the Hunters a formidable backfield, one that gained 206 yards rushing.

“That’s one of the reasons that I stubbornly kept them both in the backfield instead of at guard or tackle,” Huie said, “because I think they are both weapons. Hopefully, that will prove out.”

Quarterback Mitch Svihel completed 8 of 13 passes for 176 yards to stay undefeated since taking over the starting job three weeks ago.

Hibbing .................. 0-0-6-14—20
Denfeld ................. 14-11-12-8—45

DD — Alex Eskola 1 run (kick blocked)
DD — Tom Warren 31 pass from Mitch Svihel (Eskola run)
DD — C.J. Ham 7 run (Ivan Dakovic run)
DD — Billy Phousongphouang 26 field goal
H — Ezra Coughlin 32 pass from Evan Lister (run failed)
DD — Ham 7 run (kick blocked)
DD — Ham 39 run (run failed)
DD — Phousongphouang 62 pass from Svihel (Dan Klaas run)
H — Lister 1 run (Kyle Jacobson run)
H — Eric Laliberte 56 run (run failed)

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