Nov. 1, 2009
Defense, running propel Hunters
By Rick Weegman
The combination of C.J. Ham — Duluth Denfeld’s
battering ram at running back — and a stout defense proved
enough to put the Hunters into the Section 7AAAA high school football
final for the first time in five years.
Denfeld defeated Grand Rapids 12-6 in a section
semifinal Saturday afternoon at Public Schools Stadium. The Hunters
(7-3) advance to play Bemidji (5-5), a 40-0 winner over Duluth Central,
for the championship at 7 p.m. Friday at PSS.
Ham rushed for 158 yards on 19 carries and scored
the winning touchdown on a 72-yard run on the opening play of the
“Once that young man gets an opening, he’s
both physical and fast,” Hunters coach Frank Huie said.
Ham, a 6-foot-0, 250-pound junior, took the ball
down the right sideline and held off a couple of attempted tackles
near the goal line to give Denfeld a 12-0 lead.
“I thought I was going to get caught for
sure, so I kept looking back,” Ham said. “Coach [Huie]
said, ‘Make a big play,’ so we needed that one.”
The Thunderhawks (3-7) scored on the next drive
on a 26-yard pass from Austin Pohlen to Shain Powers, but their
spread offense was held in check overall by the Hunters. Grand Rapids
rushed for only 13 yards in the second half.
Pohlen was intercepted twice, including Luke Jazdzewski’s
game-clinching pickoff on his knees at midfield with 1:44 left.
“I wasn’t expecting it to come straight
to me, so when it came I dropped to the ground,” Jazdzewski
said. “I was thinking too much of Madden [2009, a NFL video
game], and I was about to get up and run.”
The game was a battle of field position until
the Hunters scored on their second possession. Mitch Svihel, who
improved to 4-0 as the team’s starting quarterback, rolled
right and floated a 12-yard scoring pass to Kyle Limoseth for a
6-0 lead. Svihel completed 4 of 6 passes for 45 yards.
The Hunters nearly went up two touchdowns late
in the first half, but Jazdzewski fumbled at the 1.
The Thunderhawks also were stopped deep in opposing
territory on their first drive of the second half. Pohlen’s
pass to Shay Anderson ended up 3 yards short of the end zone to
stall an 18-play, 77-yard drive that chewed up more than seven minutes.
Ham broke the game open moments later with his
sixth carry of a seven-play drive.
“He’s a nice-looking running back,”
Grand Rapids coach Tim Botsford said. “They have two big running
backs, and we knew they would come at us. I thought our defense
played a good game, containing them most of the day. Every once
in a while, they’re going to be able to break one with a big
guy like [Ham].”
The Hunters advance to their first section final
since 2004, which was also the last time they posted a winning record.
Now, they’ll face one of their stiffest challenges on the
“I heard on the radio the other day that
[Bemidji] is the clear-cut favorite,” Huie said. “I
don’t mind being the underdog at home and as the higher seed.
I’ll be the clear-cut underdog; I’ll take that role.”
Grand Rapids ............. 0-0-0-6—6
Denfeld ...................... 6-0-0-6—12
DD — Kyle Limoseth 12 pass from Mitch Svihel (run failed)
DD — C.J. Ham 72 run (pass failed)
GR — Shain Powers 26 pass from Austin Pohlen (kick failed)