CRYSTAL FALLS—Despite losing two starters due to athletic code violations, Forest Park improved its season record to 7-0 on Oct. 11 with a 57-0 romp past winless Baraga.
The Trojans scored five touchdowns in the first quarter as they improved to 3-0 in the Great Western Conference standings
Coach Bill Santilli had to make some adjustments to his starting offense due to the suspensions (which will end after this week’s game against Gogebic). But it didn’t matter at Baraga: The Trojans were so opportunistic in the first quarter that the varsity reserves and JV players were already playing in the second quarter.
FP scored five times in the first quarter, “and they were all short field,” Santilli said. A short punt set up Forest Park’s first TD, an 8-yard run by Austin Snell. Brett Smithson’s kick put the Trojans ahead 7-0.
After that, disaster after disaster struck the Vikings. Snell’s interception set up the Trojans at the Baraga 13, and Graff scored from there—13-0. Next, Zach Aberly blocked a Vikings punt, and the Trojans took over at the Vikings 18—sophomore QB Connor Kezerle passed 18 yards to Daniel Nocerini for the score—19-0.
The Viking punt unit had a bad quarter. The next snap to Baraga’s punter went over his head—he ran back to get it and threw a desperation pass intercepted by Hank Steiro at the Baraga 9. Graff cashed in with a 6-yard TD run—25-0. Next time, Michael Wagner blocked Baraga’s punt, and FP took over at the 2—Kezerle passed to Snell for six points and a 32-0 lead.
After that, the Trojan coaches pulled their starters. There was no more scoring in the first half. Since Forest Park’s junior varsity game last week was canceled, this gave the JV players some varsity level playing time.
Santilli wanted to use his starters for two series in the second half. Lee Graff scored on a 49-yard run to make it 38-0. Next time, Baraga managed to get its punt away, but Snell returned it 62 yards for his third TD of the night—44-0. Next, Billy Ragio intercepted a Vikings punt and then caught a 2-yard TD pass from Kezerle—51-0. After that, the starters exited the game for good.
The final points came in the game’s last minute—a Baraga pitch on an option play missed connections, and FP’s Steven West fell on the loose ball in the end zone.
Kezerle, in his first varsity start, had a strong game, completing 7 of 9 passes for 77 yards and three touchdowns.
Santilli said Baraga is “a very, very young team” and struggled all night with Forest Park’s starters. The Vikings never scored, but they put some plays together when FP’s reserves were in.
“It just was a game where we wanted to play it and get through it. Happy that we could play it.”
The Trojans reported two injuries: Adam Hilberg bruised a thigh and was stayed off the field after the score got lopsided. Also, Andrew Taylor, one of the players up from the JV team, injured an ankle when he was tackled.
Last week’s Forest Park JV game was called off due to low numbers, and the Oct. 17 game at Gogebic has also been canceled. Coaches are hoping enough JVs will be healthy to play Lake Linden Oct. 24 in their season finale.
Team stats: Forest Park, 253 total yards (24-176 rushing, 7-9-77 passing), Baraga 67 total yards (23-27 rushing, 5-20-40 passing). First downs: FP 4, Baraga 3.
Individual stats: Lee Graff, 6-96; Connor Dalpra, 2-37; Andrew Taylor, 2-24; Austin Snell, 2-13. Passing: Connor Kezerle, 7-9-77, 3 TDs. Receiving: Snell, 3-49; Daniel Nocerini, 3-26; Billy Ragio, 1-2.
Defense (tackles-assists): Graff, 4-3; Nocerini, 3-2; Adam Hilberg, 3-1; Zach Aberly, 3-1. Interceptions: Nocerini, 2; Hank Steiro, Snell, Ragio, 1 each. Blocked punts: Aberly, Michael Wagner. Fumble recoveries: Steven West, Wagner.
• The suspended players will only be spectators this Friday, Oct. 18, when the Trojans host the tough Gogebic Miners. The Miners improved to 5-2 on Oct. 12 with a 36-20 win over Ontonagon at Wakefield. Gogebic’s only losses this year have been to Hurley (30-0) and Lake Linden (22-20).
Trojans 32 0 25 0 -- 57
Vikings 0 0 0 0 -- 0