CRYSTAL FALLS—Missing for way too long, the legendary football rivalry between Forest Park and Norway is going to be just fine to judge by their game at Ronberg Field in Norway Aug. 30.
The Trojans (now 2-0, 0-0) scored the first 19 points of the game but saw their fat lead shrink to five points—twice—before winning 35-22.
Moment of truth: Down 27-22 midway through the fourth quarter, Norway drove to the Forest Park 30, where they faced 4th and 12. Knights QB Isaac Bray fired a pass up the middle, but Derek Aberly broke its up at the 10 yard line.
Forest Park got the ball back on downs and later scored an insurance score. Trojan fans could finally exhale.
Give credit to Norway, which was outgained 2:1 in total yards but still made a game of it.
Tempting fate: The Trojans threatened to run away with the game early. QB Jeff Johnson scored twice in the first quarter, on 32- and 4-yard runs. When Austin Snell scored from 43 yards out early in the second quarter (Johnson kick), FP led 19-0.
Momentum started changing when Forest Park failed on two fourth down plays in its own end. “It was 4th and 2 and 4th and 1,” Coach Bill Santilli said, “and they stopped us both times.”
FP got away with tempting fate once—just once. After a quarterback sneak failed, Norway took over near the Trojan 40 and drove down to score on Jordan Neumann’s two-yard run.
Before long, Neumann scored again, from 27 yards out, and QB Isaac Bray’s pass to Elliott Reid for two cut the lead to 19-14 with 3:14 till halftime.
FP fired back less than a minute later when Johnson passed to Snell for a 58-yard score. They also linked up on the two-pointer, building the lead to 27-14 at halftime.
Knights rally: Norway fought back in the second half. After a long possession, the Knights’ punt pinned FP back at its 1. The Trojans didn’t get a first down, punted, and Norway got it back with great field position.
“That whole third quarter,” said Santilli, “we played on our side of the field. Never crossed midfield. Never even got close.” The Knights scored with 1:52 left in the third on Bray’s 14-yard pass up the middle to Jake Pedrotti. Neumann ran for two, cutting FP’s lead to 27-22.
The Trojans’ next drive ended at Norway’s 40 when another fourth down play came up short. That gave the Knights another chance to go ahead—until Aberly broke up the fourth down pass. Forest Park finally added an insurance score on Raymond Tomasik’s seven yard run with 3:18 to play. Johnson’s pass to Aberly added two, making the final score 35-22.
Hot time of it: The heated battle was played on a sultry night on a field in a natural bowl. “I think somebody said it was 95 degrees on the field there,” noted Santilli. Despite frequent water breaks, all the players were drained by the end. “You would think they had stood in the shower with their uniforms on, they were sweating so much.”
Bygone times: Norway had success with a trips formation the Trojans hadn’t practiced, and Bray was also running option plays. While it may not have matched the bruising battles of bygone years, about a half-dozen Trojans went home with minor injuries. “It’s a good thing we have the extra long weekend here—it was a very physical game.
“We have to be very pleased with being able to sneak out a win after a short week of preparations against a team that physically challenged us.”
Numbers: Forest Park, 333 total yards (42-275 rushing, 1-3-58 passing), Norway 164 (34-94 rushing, 6-15-70 passing).
Offense: Rushing: Raymond Tomasik, 20-126; Jeff Johnson, 11-74; Austin Snell, 8-62. Passing: Johnson, 1-3-58, 1 TD. Receiving: Snell, 1-58, 1 TD.
Defense: Tackling: Adam Hilberg, 6t-2a; Derek Aberly, 5t-3a; Tomasik, 4t-3a. Sacks: Steven Hallmann 2, Carlton isaacson. Tackles for loss: 11, split between Hallmann, Tomasik and Taylor Nocerini.
Coming up: It’s a big one: Unbeaten Hurley comes to town this Friday, Sept. 7. The Midgets hosted Lake Linden Aug. 31 and ran over them 41-6.
Trojans 12 15 0 8 -- 35
Knights 0 14 8 0 -- 22