CRYSTAL FALLS—All season, Forest Park fans have been waiting for this Friday. All season, North Dickinson fans have, too.
The waiting ends Oct. 4 when the unbeaten Trojans host the unbeaten Nordics at Dick Mettlach Field in a battle for the top spot in U.P. Division 8 and playoff home field advantage.
The Trojans went to 5-0 overall Sept. 27 by knocking North Central from the ranks of the unbeaten on the Jets’ own field. Forest Park scored the first 35 points of the game on their way to a 35-8 win.
“Defensive, we played very well,” Coach Bill Santilli said. “Offensively, we sputtered a little early. But once we got some momentum, we played well.”
Neither offense could get much going in the first quarter of a hard-hitting game. The Trojans drove deep into the North Central end but lost the ball on downs at the Jets 13.
Then, the first big play, courtesy of the Trojans’ Jeff Johnson just before the teams changed ends: Johnson crashed in on North Central QB Rob Granquist as he went back to pass.
“It was a nice play,” said Santilli. “He reached around, punched the ball as he was tackling the quarterback and fell on it” at the Jets 11.
That play ended the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, Johnson handed off to Lee Graff, who scored from 11 yards out. Graff’s two-point run put the Trojans up 8-0.
After the Trojans stopped North Central on fourth down, FP’s offense came back to score on Austin Snell’s 41-yard run. The run failed, but the Trojans led 14-0 at halftime.
The Jets’ offense is focused on Granquist’s skills. “Their offensive line plays really well,” Santilli said, “And Granquist sees the field so well. He’s got a quick release and a nice touch. He can throw on the run and had a couple of keepers that got around the edge.”
North Central did not run a single running play in the first quiarter. In the second quarter, end Travis Vincent made a leaping, one-handed catch of a Granquist pass for 28 yards. “The absolute best catch I’ve ever seen a high school kid make,” Santilli said the next day.
Still, the Trojans led 14-0, and the Trojans went into ball control mode in the second half. An 11-play drive, all on the ground, ended with Graff scoring on a 20-yard run. Johnson’s two-pointer to Snell put the Trojans up 22-0.
After the defense got the ball back on downs, the Trojans scored on the second play, a 55-yard pass from Johnson to Billy Ragio. 28-0.
Kezerle scored on a 3-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, and Brett Smithson’s extra point kick made it 35-0 and started the running clock. The Jets ended the shutout with 2:37 left when Granquist passed to Vincent for a 5-yard TD pass and the two-pointer. Final: 35-8.
“Our defense played well the whole game,” Santilli said. “North Central didn’t punt in the second half—they went for it every time. But the momentum had shifted our way, and we were basically trying to run the clock out.”
It was a hard-hitting battle, but Santilli reported no injuries going into the showdown against the Nordics.
Team stats: Forest Park, 361 total yards (46-306 rushing, 1-8-55 passing), North Central, 282 total yards (14-83 rushing, 14-34-199 passing). First downs: FP 11, NC 10.
Rushing: Lee Graff, 23-155; Austin Snell, 14-125; Raymond Tomasik, 4-13. Passing: Jeff Johnson, 1-8-55, 1 TD. Receiving: Billy Ragio, 1-55.
Defense (tackles-assists): Graff, 9-2; Adam Hilberg, 3-5; Zach Aberly, 3-4; Connor Kezerle, 5-0. Strip+sack+fumble recovery: Johnson. Interception: Ragio.
• 5-0 Forest Park hosts 5-0 North Dickinson this Friday at Dick Mettlach Field. What more needs to be said? Last year, the Nordics dominated at ND, winning 55-27.
Trojans 0 14 14 7 -- 35
Jets 0 0 0 8 -- 8