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Duluth Central shuts out Denfeld

When a high school football team's best offensive play is a quarterback sneak, it's probably in trouble. When that same teamcommits three turnovers, three penalties, has a punt blocked and makes just two first downs in the first half, it's defini...

When a high school football team's best offensive play is a quarterback sneak, it's probably in trouble.

When that same teamcommits three turnovers, three penalties, has a punt blocked and makes just two first downs in the first half, it's definitely in trouble.

Luckily for Duluth Central, the only thing worse than its first-half performance Friday night was the play of its rival across the Public Schools Stadium field.

Central's 14-0 North Country Conference victory over Duluth Denfeld certainly won't be recalled for its aesthetic beauty. But, perhaps, it will be a game the Trojans remember down the road as a time things began to jell.

"It was reminiscent of three years ago when we were trying to figure things out," Central coach Chris Vold said. "Only this time we got lucky and got the win. We have seven guys on offense [for whom] this is their first varsity experience -- and it shows."

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While the Trojans' anemic performance in a scoreless first half left doubts, twosecond-half drives reminded onlookers of the team that came within one victory of the Class AAAA state tournament last year. They drove 56 yards on 14 plays -- eating up8 minutes, 13 seconds on the clock -- and broke the 0-0 deadlock on Joe Serre's 2-yard plunge.

After benefiting from a high snap on a Denfeld punt that resulted in a one-play,5-yard touchdown drive, the Trojans (2-1 overall, 1-1 NCC) sealed the game with another 15-play, eight-minute possession that wore down the Hunters (0-3, 0-1).

"We felt like we finally got in a rhythm, drove down the field and finally punched it in for one," senior offensive and defensive lineman Garth Heikkinen said. "We were more physical up front and played smash-mouth football. It's a good feeling to beat a rival like that."

Central had some help in that regard. Denfeld committed six penalties, turned the ball over three times, went 0-for-3 on fourth-down conversions, completed just two passes for 17 yards and finished with a negative-4 yards offense in the second half.

"I thought [Central] played well defensively, but I think we equally made so many sloppy mistakes these first few weeks that I am thoroughly disappointed," said Denfeld coach Frank Huie, whose team was blanked by Central for the second straight year. "We have to start all over again; we can't give up. We played with them for quite a while, but made way too many mistakes to beat anyone."

Vold virtually echoed those sentiments about his team. At halftime of last week's six-point loss to Grand Rapids, Vold inserted running back Harden Henry at quarterback. Henry, who played quarterback from fifth through ninth grade, started Friday behind center but showed early jitters. He fumbled on the first possession and threw two interceptions in the opening half.

"At first I was a little shaky going from running back switching back to quarterback," the 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior said. "I got a lot more confidence as [the game went on]."

That's likely because Vold went back to the simplest play in the playbook: the quarterback sneak. Henry carried seven times for 40 yards on the first scoring drive and then used the same play to run 5 yards for a touchdown following a botched snap on a Denfeld punt. He led the Trojans with 108 yards on 19 carries.

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"The quickest way to the end zone is a straight line," Vold said. "There's not a lot of science involved."

Duluth Denfeld 0-0-0-0--0

Duluth Central 0-0-7-7-- 14

DC -- Jake Serre 2 run (Jake Snyder kick)

DC -- Harden Henry 5 run (Snyder kick)

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