When St. Paul high schools Harding and Humboldt merged in hopes of offering a more robust football experience, the identity of H-Town was born.

The "H" could stand for humble. In the six seasons before the 2021 co-op formed, the programs posted a combined five winless seasons and never finished better than 4-5. Player numbers stagnated.

This season, the KnightHawks are off to a successful start on their comeback tour. Thursday's 53-0 rout of Minneapolis Roosevelt moved them to 3-0.

"Everybody on this team is trying to put us on the map," senior quarterback Jorge Irizarry said. "It's been, 'Oh, it's just Humboldt or Harding, we're going to blow them out,' for years."

H-Town is flipping the script, outscoring foes by a gaudy 47-4 average.

Irizarry ran for his team's first touchdown at Roosevelt, then watched as fellow offensive contributors Robert Htoo, twins Julius and Jod'e Trice, and Neyo Chea ran for a combined five additional scores.

Irizarry also played cheerleader as Ai'Jhon Douglas took a punt return 50 yards for a score and Zane Sheire brought a twice-recovered fumble the final 6 yards to pay dirt.

"It just shows the amount of people that want to compete on our team," Irizarry said. "It shows that everybody is putting into it."

Such success was miles from Irizarry's reality as a sophomore at Humboldt. He endured the West Side school's final independent season in 2020, when the program had only 20 players to start before ending the season with 12. Irizarry played every snap as a defensive back in addition to taking all the snaps at quarterback.

First-year coach Andre Creighton believes playing starters both ways all game typically results in .500 football. On Thursday, only four players started on both sides of the ball — a reflection of the program's growth.

"I'd love to have less," Creighton said. "But we've got a lot of young, hungry guys who are contributing. That's why we're 3-0."

Creighton, a 2009 Harding graduate who was inducted into the East Side school's Hall of Stars in 2017, preaches a formula of "Belief = Thoughts = Words and Actions = Habits = Values = Our Destiny."

Taking stock of the KnightHawks' adherence to the formula throughout their undefeated start to the season, Creighton said: "I think we've got a team that's believing, but they are focusing on the destiny. And you can't skip steps. This year, we're actually showing that our words and actions are building some good habits. We're thinking about what we're doing. And we value this brotherhood."

Case in point, Julius Trice said his two touchdown runs "weren't just mine. I got great blocking from our receivers."

Trice wasn't just generous with teammates. As his team went ahead 39-0 into the third quarter and ultimately kept Roosevelt (0-3) in search of its first points this season, Trice showed empathy toward a frustrated foe. He was part of those humbling times before the co-op.

"I do understand being on the other side of it," Trice said. "I was telling the guy I was guarding, 'Good route,' just trying to lift him up. Because they were down, and I know how that feels."