GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids High School football team could do no wrong in last Friday’s 65-0 victory over Duluth Denfeld.
The Thunderhawks picked up massive chunks of yardage on the ground against the Hunters and also recorded two touchdowns through the air. Meanwhile, Grand Rapids’ swarming defense recorded the shutout to make the victory even more impressive.
After evening out their season record at 1-1, the Thunderhawks are hoping to keep it going on Friday in its home opener when it takes on the Hibbing Bluejackets in a 7 p.m. contest at Noble Hall Field in Grand Rapids. It also will be the homecoming game for Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids rushed for 398 yards in its victory over Duluth Denfeld led by Brock Holm who rushed for 116 yards on 15 carries while sophomore Max Bergman had 93 yards and three touchdowns on just three rushing attempts. Eleven other Thunderhawks picked up yardage in the game for Grand Rapids.
Quarterback Trent Johnson needed to pass the ball just four times in the game and he completed two for 53 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was a pretty complete game against Denfeld and we are happy with how the boys played,” said Grand Rapids head coach Greg Spahn. “We haven’t had a win like that in awhile and I think we exorcised some demons.
“Caden Hofstad had a kick return for a touchdown and we had a couple of interceptions and interrupted their throws and we played very well up front. We needed one of those. I think everybody felt pretty good afterwards.”
Spahn said it was important to get the win over Denfeld because the alternative was Grand Rapids starting the season out with an 0-2 record.
“I think the win validates what we are doing, it validates the messages that we give to the kids and the work that they put in,” Spahn explained. “We tell them all the time that hard work is a requisite but it doesn’t guarantee anything. I think for us it was awesome to see that pay off in a pretty big manner.”
Spahn praised the play of offensive linemen J.D. Weston, Nick Dunnell, Noah Schmoll, Kale Florek and Nate Roberts.
“They did very well,” the coach said. “They took a step up. If your line doesn’t play well, nobody is playing well and those boys stepped up. They had minimal mistakes and really played aggressive. They didn’t think, they just played and that helped tremendously.”
Being that Friday night’s game is the homecoming game, Spahn said the game is important to the school and the community in addition to the team.
“They understand that without a football game there isn’t homecoming,” the coach explained. “I think it’s awesome that we are doing it early so hopefully the weather is good. It is an old rival in Hibbing coming to town and hopefully we can keep it rolling. They got one on us last year and our boys haven’t forgotten that stuff.
“I think we will be ready. It’s always hard to limit the distractions during Homecoming Week as we have a couple guys on the court and stuff like that. But if there is one thing about this group over the early part of the season it is that they are focused and they want to be successful.”
Spahn said Hibbing gives out a different look defensively that his team will have to prepare for. However, he said the focus is on the Thunderhawks every week with their execution and their ability to compete against the set standard.
“If we can do that, we will be OK. I tell the kids often that we aren’t going to worry about who we are playing but that we are going to worry about how we play and what we do,” Spahn said. “If we can do that I think we will be OK.
“As for keys to the game, we have to hang onto the football and we have to continue to play error-free football. Defensively, we took a step forward as our angles were better, our lanes were better, our assignments were better and we set a pretty high standard.
“If we can keep striving to hit that and compete against that standard, we will do some pretty good things.”