GRAND RAPIDS — After a miserable and scoreless first half where each team committed three turnovers, it was hard to figure out what would happen in the second half of Friday night’s high school football game between Grand Rapids and Duluth East.
While the Thunderhawks had numerous chances to punch the ball into the end zone in the first half, they were unable to do so. Meanwhile, Grand Rapids’ defense completely shut down Duluth East in the first half, holding the Greyhounds to just 16 yards of total offense.
Still, the game was tied going into the second half and it was anybody’s game.
However, in a second half that was completely unexpected, Grand Rapids came out firing on all cylinders and completely dominated the second half in outscoring Duluth East by 40 points in coming away with a huge 40-0 victory in action at Noble Hall Field in Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids quarterback Trent Johnson said the Thunderhawks didn’t really make any adjustments in the second half. He said it was a matter of Grand Rapids being able to finish off its drives with points.
“In the first half we had two or three drives that stalled late in the red zone,” said Johnson. “We could have finished those easy and part of it was my fault too. We just picked it up in the second half and didn’t make any mental errors and did what we were supposed to do, and as a result we scored.
“This is a big win for us. The two losses we have had this season were both poor games for us. We feel we could be doing a lot better right now and this was a statement game for us to prove ourselves a little bit. Last week (a loss to Cloquet) was a bummer for us but we bounced back tonight and we have to be happy about that. We just need to keep rolling and stay confident.”
Grand Rapids head coach Greg Spahn said a big reason for the explosion in the second half was the fact that the Thunderhawks did not turn it over in the second half.
“We hung onto the football which helps,” Spahn explained. “We were moving the ball and playing well defensively but we just had inopportune turnovers in the first half. I don’t know if I have seen a quarter like that second quarter where we went back and forth with turnovers.
“At the half we talked to the kids about believing in each other and playing for each other and they did that.”
Duluth East, a Class 5A school, entered the game with a 5-1 record but the Greyhounds had everything go wrong for them on Friday. It started on Duluth East’s first drive of the game when it lost star running back Elijah Leonard for the game with a leg injury. In the second half, it got much worse for the Greyhounds.
The first half was marred by turnovers by both teams as each team turned the ball over three times. Grand Rapids drove deep into Greyhounds’ territory late in the first half and the Thunderhawks turned the ball over on downs at the one yard line with just 17 seconds left in the half.
The second half was all Grand Rapids. Brock Holm scored the first of his three touchdowns in the second half with 4:51 left in the third quarter on an eight-yard run, and quarterback Trent Johnson hit Holm with the two-point conversion pass as the Thunderhawks led 8-0.
Grand Rapids took the 8-0 lead into the fourth quarter and promptly put up 32 points in the quarter to pull away. The onslaught started when Caden Hofstad broke free on a 73-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion run failed but Grand Rapids led 14-0 with 11:01 left in the game.
That touchdown was followed in rapid succession by another Holm eight-yard touchdown run and a Hofstad 15-yard scamper for a touchdown to put the Thunderhawks ahead 28-0. On East’s next possession, the Thunderhawks’ Karter Olson stripped the ball from a Greyhounds’ player and took it the other way for a 25-yard touchdown and a 34-0 Grand Rapids lead with 7:17 remaining.
The final Grand Rapids touchdown came when Holm scooted 39 yards on his third scoring run of the evening.
Johnson praised the play of the Grand Rapids offensive line in the game for opening up some big holes for the skill position players.
“The holes are always great and it is a easy decision for us,” Johnson said. “All we have to do is run hard and put our shoulder down. Those guys always do a great job and it is just great to see. I love having them in front of me.”
Spahn said it was a total team victory over the Greyhounds on Friday.
“I am incredibly proud of these guys,” Spahn said. “That’s a 5-1, now 5-2 Class 5A school. Coming off last week, this sure feels pretty good.”
Duluth East 0 0 0 0—0
Grand Rapids 0 0 8 32—40
GR-Brock Holm 8-yard run (Holm pass from Trent Johnson)
GR-Caden Hofstad 73-yard run (Run failed)
GR-Holm 8-yard run (Nate Huju kick)
GR-Hofstad 15-yard run (Huju kick)
GR-Karter Olson 25-yard fumble return (Run failed)
GR-Holm 39-yard run (Kick failed)