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.