CRYSTAL FALLS—Forest Park will hit the road for the first game of its Division 8 playoff season this Friday. Destination: L’Anse.
The Trojans and Purple Hornets go facemask to facemask at Meadowbrook Field Oct. 26. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. Central Time.
FP finished its regular season at Dick Mettlach Field Oct. 19 by earning a 33-14 win over Lake Linden-Hubbell.
With the win, the Trojans wind up 7-2 overall and part of a three-way tie for the Great Western Conference title with Hurley and Gogebic—all at 4-1. Forest Park beat Hurley, Hurley beat Gogebic, and Gogebic beat Forest Park.
It’s complicated: Home field advantage against L’Anse came down to a photo finish in the state’s ultra complicated playoff point system. In the end, L’Anse finished with 48.542 points to FP’s 48.389.
Coach Bill Santilli had hoped FP would get bonus points if three teams the Trojans beat earlier this year had won. But there were no upsets Oct. 19: Bark River lost to West Iron, Norway lost to Iron Mountain and North Central lost to Stephenson.
In fact, the Wykons’ win hurt FP twice: Instead of Forest Park getting bonus points, L’Anse got them—because the Purple Hornets beat West Iron in Week 2.
Lucky number: The Trojans went in front early after Raymond Tomasik converted a 4th and 2, and QB Jeff Johnson passed 19 yards to Austin Snell. The TD was by Johnson on a one-yard run for a 6-0 lead. Late in the quarter, the Trojans drove 61 yards, including a 38-yard pass to Austin Snell, but fumbled on the Lakes 1.
No boo-boos in the second quarter, as Johnson and Snell connected twice for touchdowns. The lucky number on the first drive was 28: Derek Aberly’s 28-yard run led to Johnson’s 28-yard TD pass to Snell. Chris Hilberg’s two-point catch put FP ahead 14-0.
FP struck again after taking the ball on downs near midfield. First, Johnson passed to Brett Hietala for a 13-yard gain on 4th and 12. Two plays later, Johnson and Snell connected for a 27-yard TD with 1:01 left till halftime. Now it was 20-0.
Trading scores: Skip ahead to late in the third quarter. Tomasik’s 48-yard punt backed the Lakes to their own 5, but it turned out great for the visitors, as Cody Kumpala broke away for a 79-yard TD run. The run failed, and FP still led 20-6.
After FP recovered an onside kick near midfield, Johnson opened the fourth quarter by breaking loose for a 43-yard run, setting up Aberly’s two-yard TD run for a 26-6 lead. Lake Linden came back with a five-play drive, scoring on Kumpala’s 25-yard run. He added the two-pointer, cutting the lead to 26-14.
From its 22, Forest Park went into clock-eating long drive. A 30-yard pass to Snell led to Aberly’s 13-yard TD run with 4:12 to go. With the kick, the final score was 33-14.
Johnson had a strong game for FP, completing 10 of 14 passes. Outside of three straight incompletions in the third quarter, he was 10 of 11.
Patched-up: Dennis Mongar missed the game with an ankle injury, and coaches moved Tomasik from tight end to the backfield. The Lakes hit hard, Santilli noted. “We had a few guys who I’ll be calling over the weekend [to check on injuries].”
A major concern is strong side tackle Mac Phillips, who hurt a foot (non-football accident) a few weeks earlier and hurt it again against Lake Linden.
“We might have a really patched-up lineup [against L’Anse],” Santilli said. Earlier, Aberly was moved from strong side end to backfield. “If Phillips can’t play, we’ll be playing with two new starters on our strong side.”
That’s against a strong L’Anse team with two star running backs plus other weapons.
“No matter what kind of lineup we muster, we’re going to be real challenged with what L’Anse does.” The Purple Hornet play like North Dickinson and Gogebic—Forest Park’s two losses.
Not so bad: All things considered, though, Santilli said he is “very pleased” with FP’s 7-2 record “in what I think is a rebuilding year for us.”
“Realistically, we were hoping to make the playoffs this year.”
Numbers: Team offense: FP, 362 total yards (43-184r, 10-14-178p), LLH 250 (42-250r, 0p). First downs: FP 14, LLH 9.
Rushing: Derek Aberly, 17-68; Raymond Tomasik, 13-54; Jeff Johnson, 9-52. Receiving: Austin Snell, 6-148, 2 TDs; Aberly, 2-14. Passing: Johnson, 10-14-178, 2 TDs. LLH rushing: Cody Kumpala, 15-148.
Defense: Tackles: Aberly, 7t-4a; Adam Hilberg, 5t-5a; Tomasik, 6t-2a; Colton LaChapelle, 6t-1a. Tackles for loss: Aberly, LaChapelle-Aberly.
Coming up. The Trojans and Purple Hornets (both 7-2) will be meeting for the first time since the 2007 playoffs, when the Trojans won 32-0 en route to a Division 8 state title.
L’Anse’s only losses this year were to Northland Pines and Calumet. They defeated West Iron 40-20 at home on Aug. 30, with running backs Cody Goldsworthy and Jimmy Veker combining for 225 yards. L’Anse had 284 rushing yards that night.
Lakes 0 0 6 8 -- 14
Trojans 6 14 0 13 -- 33