The Trojans’ Lee Graff converts a 4th-and-2 play in style, breaking loose for a 13-yard gain early in the second quarter against North Dickinson on Oct. 4. Graff led Forest Park with 157 rushing yards.
CRYSTAL FALLS—Who’s No. 1 among the U.P.’s Class D football teams?
Forest Park left no doubters here Oct. 4. In a battle of unbeaten teams, the Trojans routed North Dickinson 43-20 on Homecoming night at Dick Mettlach Field. Forest Park is now 6-0 and now has secured its playoff berth.
The home team’s fans were delighted. So were the Trojans’ coaches and players. Not to mention the spectator who won $628 in the 50-50 drawing.
It was a close game on the stat sheet (The Nordics earned more first downs), and on the field for most of the first half. But after the Trojans took charge late in the half, they never let ND back in the game.
A rain shower before the game made the grass wet, and turnovers were a big factor. After Forest Park lost a fumble on its first play from scrimmage, the Nordics drove to the Trojan 20 when Raymond Tomasik’s hit forced a fumble. Jeff Johnson scooped up the loose ball and ran it back 67 yards for a Trojan TD.
ND made no mistakes on its next drive, covering 80 yards and scoring on Matt Schultz’s 7-yard run. The kick put the Nordics up 7-6. Forest Park came back with a 78-yard scoring drive, with Johnson scoring on a keeper from the 1. Trojans, 12-7.
The Nordics answered with a 55-yard drive, with QB Logan O’Neil passing 28 yards to Justin Clark for six points. Nordics, 13-12. But the Trojans covered 68 yards in five plays, including Johnson’s 48-yard pass to Graff at the ND 7. Graff ran it over from the 1 and caught a pass for the deuce—FP now led 20-13.
Only 3:08 was left in the second quarter, and the band and Homecoming court were assembling for halftime ceremonies -- but they had to wait a while after Tomasik and Johnson hit O’Neil near midfield and forced a fumble that Kyle Soderberg recovered with 41 seconds left.
The Trojans scrambled to cash in. A 34-yard Johnson-to-Graff pass earned 1st and goal at the ND 10. After a spike, a Trojans penalty and FP’s final time-out, Johnson passed to Daniel Nocerini, who gave ground to get out of bounds at the 10, stopping the clock with 8 seconds left. “That’s a heads-up play for anybody,” Santilli noted.
Then, a trick play: QB Johnson lined up off to the left, and Graff took a direct snap. He ran towards Johnson but never let go of the ball and scored. Next, Johnson and Nocerini hooked up for two, and the Trojans led 28-13 at halftime.
“That put us in a great situation at halftime,” Santilli noted. “It gave us a lot of confidence.”
During the extended halftime break, Santilli said Assistant Coach Dave Graff adjusted the defensive linemen’s assignments to better cover Schultz, who was getting most of the Nordics’ handoffs. “It gave them [the Nordics] a different look that they hadn’t really prepared for, and I think that really helped.”
Like in the first half, the Trojans lost a fumble on their first play of the second half. They made up for it with TDs on their next two possessions: a 2-yard Graff run (following his 46-yard run) and later a 33-yard Johnson-Nocerini pass. Now the Trojans led 43-13.
Behind by four possessions, the Nordics didn’t score again until late in the fourth quarter, on O’Neil’s 5-yard run at the end of a 60-yard drive.
Team stats: Forest Park 357 total yards (34-231 rushing, 5-6-126 psasing), North Dickinson 306 total yards (47-278 rushing, 1-6-28 passing). First downs: FP 11, ND 14.
Individual stats: Rushing: Lee Graff, 15-157; Raymond Tomasik, 7-27; Austin Snell, 5-24. Passing: Jeff Johnson, 5-6-126. Receiving: Daniel Nocerini, 3-44; Snell, 1-48; Graff, 1-34. ND rushing: Matt Schultz, 27-142; Noah Berg, 9-70; Derek Wagner, 8-41.
Defense (tackles-assists): Graff, 11-6; Connor Kezerle, 11-1; Zach Aberly, 6-3; Adam Hilberg, 5-4. Fumble recoveries: Johnson, Kyle Soderberg. Interception: Kezerle. Forced fumbles: Tomasik, Tomasik-Johnson.
All-purpose yards (returns of kicks, turnovers): team total, 267. Snell, 4-88; Graff, 3-87; Johnson, 1-67; Kezerle, 1-25.
• The Trojans go from one extreme to the other this week: They travel to Baraga on Oct. 11 to face the winless Vikings, who have been outscored 318 to 36 so far this year, including a 52-8 trouncing from Hurley on Oct. 4. Save your gas money for November.
Nordics 7 6 0 7 -- 20
Trojans 6 22 15 0 -- 43