Grand Rapids knocks out Duluth Denfeld from football playoffs

GRAND RAPIDS -- Austin Pohlen is noted for his throwing arm, but the Grand Rapids quarterback showed Tuesday night he's a valued college recruit for other reasons as well.

GRAND RAPIDS -- Austin Pohlen is noted for his throwing arm, but the Grand Rapids quarterback showed Tuesday night he's a valued college recruit for other reasons as well.

Pohlen rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, in addition to throwing for 171 yards and two more scores, as Grand Rapids defeated Duluth Denfeld 40-12 in the first round of the Section 7AAAA high school football playoffs at Noble Hall Field.

"Austin's really quick and we have isolations, draws and zone reads that we use with him," Grand Rapids coach Tim Botsford said. "He's a very elusive runner, very shifty and tough to bring down."

The victory sends the Thunderhawks (4-5) to a semifinal showdown at top-seeded Bemidji (8-0) on Saturday.

Denfeld ends the season 2-7.


Evan Anderson added 129 yards rushing on 17 carries and two more TDs for Grand Rapids.

"Evan didn't have a great game last week (in a 38-14 loss at Hutchinson), but he played with a vengeance tonight," Botsford said. "When he got the ball, he ran hard."

Grand Rapids had its most successful day rushing this season with more than 250 yards.

"They came into the game trying to stop our passing game, and it was effective," Pohlen said. "Evan took advantage of it and I took advantage of it a couple times, and our line did a heck of a job. I'm confident in my scrambling ability, and I know my line isn't going to give up while I'm scrambling and the receivers do a great job of coming back to the ball."

"Tonight we finally put all phases of the game together."

Pohlen, who has thrown for more than 1,800 yards and gained 2,400 yards of total offense, said he's being recruited by a few Division I schools as well as some in Division II. He declined to say if he's leaning toward any college.

Botsford wasn't so tight-lipped, saying defending NCAA Division II champion Minnesota Duluth has shown interest, along with fellow Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference members Bemidji State, Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State. Football Championship Subdivision members North Dakota and North Dakota State are also in the mix.

"He's getting a lot of looks," Botsford said. "I think he'll go play somewhere."


The first half featured six touchdowns, more than 300 yards of offense by each team, only one punt and two completed halfback option passes.

Graham Whiting's first halfback pass went 31 yards to Dylan Rocklin for a touchdown and a 6-0 Denfeld lead less than three minutes into the first quarter.

Grand Rapids responded with a quick-strike, three-play drive featuring 52- and 18-yard pass completions by Pohlen, the latter for a touchdown to Patrick Flaherty.

The Hunters needed only four plays to regain the lead when, with all 11 Thunderhawks looking for a sneak, Garrett Otteson raced 75 yards with a pitch on a fourth-and-1 for a 12-7 lead. Otteson finished with 175 yards on 18 attempts.

Pohlen later showed his nimbleness, scrambling 20 yards for a touchdown on third-and-goal despite fumbling at the 3. The ball bounced back into his arms as he fell into the end zone.

The next Whiting-to-Rocklin halfback pass worked as well, however Pohlen punched the ball out of Rocklin's hand and the Thunderhawks recovered in the end zone.

Another Grand Rapids fumble recovery led to a 12-play, 65-yard drive. Pohlen lofted a pass to Flaherty in the right corner for a 21-12 advantage with 6:55 left in the half. Anderson added a 5-yard scoring run, set up by his 41-yard scamper, to make it 27-12 at halftime.

Thanks to Brandon Peterson's 68-yard kickoff return, Pohlen needed only one play to start the second half on the right foot. He scrambled up the middle 17 yards for his second scoring run, essentially putting an end to Denfeld's chances.


Anderson added his second touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter on a shifty, 21-yard run up the middle.

Duluth Denfeld coach Chris Vold could not immediately be found for comment.

Duluth Denfeld 12-0-0-0--12

Grand Rapids 14-13-7-6--40

DD -- Dylan Rocklin 31 pass from Graham Whiting (run failed)

GR -- Patrick Flaherty 18 pass from Austin Pohlen (Brice Becker kick)

DD -- Garrett Otteson 75 run (run failed)

GR -- Pohlen 20 run (Becker kick)


GR -- Patrick Flaherty 6 pass from Pohlen (Becker kick)

GR -- Evan Anderson 5 run (kick blocked)

GR -- Pohlen 17 run (Becker kick)

GR -- Anderson 2 run (kick blocked)

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