July 30, 2010
Merging Duluth prep football players bond
By Kevin Pates
A merging of Duluth high schools did wonders for
the Denfeld-Morgan Park football team in the fall of 1982. The Hunters
and coach Marv Heikkinen made it to the Minnesota Class AA quarterfinals,
losing on the road to eventual-champion Stillwater. They finished
One of the team captains was senior linebacker-fullback
Joe Janchar, coming over from Morgan Park, in that first combined
His son, Joey, hopes some of that winning heritage
rubs off on the merged
Central-Denfeld team, which officially gets together for the first
time for the opening of practice Aug. 16. Joey is a senior fullback-linebacker
at Central, where Central and Denfeld students will attend school
in 2010-11. Students will move to a new and remodeled Denfeld in
2011-12, and Central’s buildings will be sold.
The football team, with the simplistic nickname
of CD, went through a bonding obstacle-course workout Thursday at
the Duluth Heritage Sports Center.
“When we started a weight-training program
together in June, on the first day, there were Central players standing
in one area and Denfeld players in another area. For a while, it
crossed my mind that it might not be so easy to put two teams together,”
Janchar said. “But right away we were partnered with a player
from the other school and we started to get along. Then there were
Central was 1-8 in 2009, with its only win over
top-seeded Cloquet in a Section 7AAAA opening-round playoff game.
Janchar rushed for the game’s opening touchdown. Denfeld was
7-4 and lost to Bemidji in the Section 7AAAA title game. The Hunters
were sparked by fullback-linebacker C.J. Ham, a senior this fall
and Janchar’s workout partner.
“It didn’t take much time at all for
all of us to become friendly,” Ham said. “We’re
excited and happy, and we see this as a great combination. It’s
all about winning, whatever makes us better, and we’re expecting
to have a good team. We have a lot of depth and a lot of competition
Central-Denfeld coach Chris Vold, 44, had been
Central’s head man the past seven years. By the start of school,
he expects about 125 players in grades nine through 12, who will
be divided among freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams.
When addressing players for the first time in
May, Vold wore a hat that read Central and a shirt that said Denfeld.
Shirts being worn during workouts are a neutral grey and use the
names of both schools. For games, color-blended maroon helmets (mixing
red and gold) will be worn with white pants, white socks and white
home jerseys. Uniform tops were kept from each school and will be
alternated during the season. Practices will be at Central and home
games at Public Schools Stadium.
“We’re emphasizing that it’s
not what’s written on the front of our jerseys, it’s
what’s inside that’s important. So far, these guys have
done a fantastic job of welcoming each other,” said Vold,
a former Minnesota Duluth assistant.
“Everyone will be equal. I won’t have
any favorites because I’ve been at Central. This will be a
new routine for all the players because I’m changing a lot
of things — practice format, offensive and defensive systems
and our terminology.”
Players pushed huge tires, lifted sandbags and
ran around cones in Thursday’s fun drills. They’ve lifted
weights for six hours per week for nearly two months and now are
off for two weeks before the Central-Denfeld era begins.
When Denfeld and Morgan Park merged in 1982 coach
Heikkinen told the News Tribune before the first game:
“Everybody is working hard and the kids
pushed even harder when the Morgan Park kids came. We’re trying
to make this a positive situation, and so far things are going very