DULUTH — The Grand Rapids High School football team exploded for 38 second-half points to turn a one-point deficit at halftime to a 56-28 thumping of Duluth East Friday night in Duluth.
Grand Rapids coach Greg Spahn said the game plan was reinforced to the players at halftime and coaches stressed the fact that the team needed to execute better on defense. The game did not start on time due to a mix up on scheduling for officials for the game.
“Offensively, the kid played at an efficient, high level all night, but it was just some gentle reminders that this his how you play and these are what your assignments are and let’s go execute,” Spahn said. “There was some distraction at the beginning of the game with the officials situation and everything, and it probably affected them a little more than us. I think our kids stayed pretty darn focused.”
Spahn said it was a strong second half for the Thunderhawks, and he added that the goal for the team is to play good defense and run the ball effectively, and Grand Rapids was able to perform in both areas in the second half.
“We want to play strong defense and we want to be able to run the ball and utilize the talent that we have and I think that formula is usually pretty successful,” Spahn said. “You usually see that those two things usually wear teams down.”
Offense dominated play in the first half. Grand Rapids struck first when Owen Glenn reached pay dirt on a nine-yard run. Kaydin Metzgar booted the extra point and the Thunderhawks had an early 7-0 advantage.
Duluth East struck right back as dangerous Austan Orvedahl scored on a 19-yard run. The kick was good and the game was tied at 7-7.
Grand Rapids regained the lead in the second quarter when Aiden Chandler pranced into the end zone from 31 yards out. The extra point try was no good but Grand Rapids led 13-7.
Duluth East came right back to regain the lead when Max Sazama latched onto a 35-yard touchdown pass from Dean Hudoba. The kick was good as the Greyhounds led 14-13 in the second quarter.
Grand Rapids came back once again when Glenn broke free on a 53-yard touchdown run.
But that lead was short-lived for the Thunderhawks as Orvedahl scored on a five-yard run late in the half to put Duluth East ahead 20-19 at the intermission.
Grand Rapids was unable to stop Duluth East at all in the first half, but the second half started out well for the Thunderhawks when they forced the Greyhounds to turn the ball over on downs in Grand Rapids territory. Then, the dangerous Chandler broke free and outran the Duluth East defenders for a 65-yard touchdown run. Chandler broke two tackles as he plunged into the end zone for the two-point conversion and a 27-20 Thunderhawk lead.
On Duluth East’s next possession, Orvedahl scored on a 65-yard run, but it was called back due to a penalty. That seemed to take the wind out of the Greyhounds as it was all Grand Rapids from there. The Thunderhawks scored three more unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to take a huge lead into the fourth quarter. The touchdowns came on a Chandler 15-yard run, a five-yard scoring run from Florek, and another touchdown from Florek, with it coming on a 21-yard run.
In the fourth quarter, Jack Cleveland reached the end zone on a 16-yard run for Grand Rapids while Michael Kastelic scored on a 63-yard run for Duluth East.
Chandler finished with 143 yards rushing in the game for Grand Rapids while Florek gained 101 and Cleveland added 81.
Duluth East was much bigger on the line than Grand Rapids but it didn’t show in the results as the Thunderhawks dominated on the line.
“East has some big boys, but I think we get caught up sometimes in this idea of football being all about who is bigger physically,” said Spahn. “But I think a lot of it comes down to who is quicker. Our boys played both very physically and they were on their toes all night. I am extremely proud of how our offensive and defensive line played.”
With the win over the Greyhounds – a 5A school – Spahn said it should give the QRF rating used for playoff seeding a boost. North Branch is 6-0 while Grand Rapids, Hermantown and Cloquet are all 4-2.
With the win, Grand Rapids improves to 4-2 for the season. Duluth East falls to 3-3.
versus Rock Ridge
Grand Rapids will play host to Rock Ridge Friday at 7 p.m. and Spahn said Rock Ridge has good size and that their quarterback gets rid of the ball quick. He said it tries to confuse defenses with misdirection plays and tries to take advantage of what the defense gives it.
“It should be a pretty good matchup. They have played a different front that we have seen most of the year with three down and five linebackers and three deep, so we have our work cut out for us in terms of preparation,” Spahn said. “But like always, I think if we can hang onto the football and if we can execute, we are going to be all right.”
Spahn praised the play of quarterback Ethan Florek – who rushed for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns on Friday – and said he is an extremely intelligent player with good athleticism.
“To have Ethan on the field and to have (backup quarterback) Dom (Provinzino) playing one way I think really benefits our team as a whole. Ethan stepped up, played well and threw well.”
Asked what the keys to get a win on Friday, Spahn said, “We have to play well up front, we have to protect the football and hopefully create some turnovers. That is just fundamental stuff; they are going to come in and they are going to be pretty salty. They have dropped some games in a row and we have to play Grand Rapids football.”
Grand Rapids 7 12 29 8—56
Duluth East 7 13 0 8—28
GR-Owen Glenn 9-yard run (Kaydin Metzgar kick)
DE-Austan Orvedahl 19-yard run (Kick good)
GR-Aiden Chandler 31-yard run (Kick failed)
DE-Max Sazama 35-yard from Dean Hudoba (Kick good)
GR-Glenn 53-yard run (Kick failed)
DE-Orvedahl 5-yard run (Run failed)
GR-Chandler 65-yard run (Chandler run)
GR-Chandler 15-yard run (2-point conversion good)
GR-Ethan Florek 3-yard run (Run good)
GR-Florek 21-yard run (Kick good)
GR-Jack Cleveland 16-yard run (Run failed)
DE-Michael Kastelic 63-yard run (Pass good)