Merging Duluth prep football players bondA merging of Duluth high schools at Duluth Denfeld and Duluth Central has the football team bonding through workouts.
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 8-2.
One of the team captains was senior linebacker-fullback Joe Janchar, coming over from Morgan Park, in that first combined school year.
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 no concerns.”
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 for positions.”
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 well.”