Denfeld vs. Central: Bookends to a Rivalry


Duluth Denfeld played Duluth Central tonight in high school football for what will very likely be the last time. Denfeld won 20-6 in front of a crowd of maybe 500 at Public Schools Stadium.

Before Denfeld had a football team, the big game in town was Central vs. Duluth Cathedral (now the Marshall School). But the Denfeld/Central rivalry was huge from the very beginning, and soon became the most important game in town.

There was an unofficial first game in 1916, in which Denfeld’s freshmen played Central’s freshmen to a tie. It was the only game Denfeld played that year. Having no coach, the Denfeld kids coached themselves.

The real first game was on Oct. 13, 1917 at Athletic Park (where Wade Stadium is today). Denfeld won 6-0. The Duluth News Tribune noted: “More than 1,000 students saw the contest, and school yells and cheers were not lacking, although various players were jeered by the opposing schools for tactics.”

It’s safe to say a strong rivalry was established from the very beginning, as this excerpt from the DNT story indicates.

Between halves a free-for-all fight started by rooters of both sides. Teachers of the schools also suffered. Members of the Fourth Minnesota Infantry came to the rescue and the belligerents were parted.



about 13 years ago

Was this really much of a rivalry when we were there?  It had quieted down and our main rival was East by that point.  But when my cousins and older sisters were at Denfeld in the 70s it was intense.  Lots of fights, and I remember hearing stories about a knifing in the early 70s.  Also remember hearing about the game being canceled at least one year because of concerns about possible trouble.

Paul Lundgren

about 13 years ago

By the 1980s Central, East and Superior were all Denfeld football rivalries, but Central was still the biggest because of all the history behind it.

In the past ten years Hermantown has replaced Superior as the #3 Denfeld rivalry. Denfeld hasn't played Superior in a while.

The 1970s were the biggest years in terms of pranks between Denfeld and Central. The most notorious incident was in 1975 when Denfeld kids somehow managed to hoist a Volkswagen (spray-painted with Denfeld slogans) on top of Central High School. 

I don't remember ever hearing about a game between the schools being canceled, though.


about 13 years ago

I agree, I don't think they ever cancelled a game. But they wouldn't let it be the homecoming game or let it be played in the evening, they had play in the afternoon. Those hoodlums couldn't be trusted. LOL


about 13 years ago

After last night (Tues. 10/27) the hope of one more Central-Denfeld game is still alive. It would be a fitting end to such a storied rivalry if it were to decide the region 7AAAA championship.

 Good luck to both teams this Saturday.

Paul Lundgren

about 13 years ago

That playoff win against Cloquet was huge for Central. With three of the top four seeds in the section already ousted, it's wide open this weekend. There might indeed be another Denfeld/Central clash before it's all over!

Josh Radosevich class of 2011

about 12 years ago

It's my senior year and it couldn't be any better. And the fact we trampled all over Duluth East was all the cake they could handle. No fights here. Everybody likes everybody. We just don't like East. We represent Duluth. I can't wait to see the newly improved Denfeld. I'm living history in the making.

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Read previous post:
Indie Film Night at the Zinema, Nov. 7