Denfeld News

Nov. 1, 2009
Duluth News Tribune

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 fourth quarter.

“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 season.

“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)

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