HIBBING — Hibbing High School football coach Shaun Howard has always said his team was close to winning some games.
The Bluejackets finally made that statement come true.
Thanks to two defensive touchdowns Hibbing broke the game open in the second quarter and rolled to a 27-0 victory over Duluth Denfeld Wednesday at Cheever Field.
After coming close in about three games this season, the Bluejackets finally tasted the sweetness of a victory.
“We’ve been working all season, and I’ve said it all season that we were close to having this type of game,” Howard said. “The kids came out, and they started out right off the bat, going down the field.
“We got them to punt right away, then we went down and scored. It was nice.”
Howard wanted to set the tone early and score on the first drive, but that drive stalled on downs in Hunter territory.
The tone was set on the Bluejackets’ second possession when Dominic Marchetti scored on a 12-yard run.
“We did move the ball on that first drive, but we didn’t get the score that we wanted, or the finish that we wanted,” Howard said. “We went down and scored on the second drive. That first drive built toward that second drive.”
Hibbing started running away with it in the second quarter when Josh Kivela scooped up a fumble and ran it in from 42 yards out, then on Duluth Denfeld’s next possession, Eli Erickson stepped in front of a Kaden Postal pass and returned it 46 yards for the score.
“That was huge,” Howard said. “Like I said to the group, I can’t remember the last time our defense got a scoop-and-score and an interception for a touchdown in the same game.
“That should give us a big lift going into playoffs. If we go in there with some confidence, who knows how far this team will go.”
The Bluejackets ended the scoring with a Brody-Niskanen 2-yard run touchdown run late in the second quarter to take that 27-0.
In the second half, Hibbing’s defense did the rest. Until the fourth quarter, the Hunters had trouble moving the ground, both on the ground and in the air.
“They came out and did the game plan that we talked about,” Howard said. “They believed in Coach (Dan) Merfeld, and everything that he was talking about. They kept right on going.”
The Bluejackets had one opportunity to score in the second half when Mayson Brown took the ball down inside the 5-yard line, but two penalties on the same play nullified that run, and forced Hibbing to punt.
That’s something Hibbing must clean up before playoffs start Tuesday.
“We wanted to keep our composure, but we lost it there with a few penalties,” Howard said. “We have to keep our composure, and keep on driving. Hopefully, we can do a little bit more scoring in the second half of our playoff game.
“I hope we can make a deep run because we have confidence as a team.”
DD 0 0 0 0 — 0
HHS 8 19 0 0 — 0
H — Dominic Marchetti 12 run (Mayson Brown run)
H — Josh Kivela 42 fumble return (pass failed)
H — Eli Erickson 46 interception return (run failed)
H — Brody Niskanen 2 run (Maxon Baron kick)
ONAMIA — The Tigers secured home-field advantage for the playoffs with the eight-point victory over the Panthers on the road Wednesday.
Justin Caple gave Cherry an early lead with a 68-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter, but Josh Parrow scored for Onamia on a 24-yard touchdown pass in the second 12 minutes of play.
The Panthers took the lead when Hunter Hopkins recovered a fumble in the end zone.
The Tigers scored in the third quarter on a Caple 1-yard run, then in the fourth quarter, Austin Michels scored on a 2-yard run to put the game away.