Trojans shut down Jets 20-6

Evan Hedtke (left) cuts off a potential tackler as Peter Ropiak takes the ball around the left side during Forest Park’s 20-6 playoff win over North Central Oct. 27.

CRYSTAL FALLS—When you see a final score of 20-6 in an eight-man football playoff game, it’s easy to see that it must have been a whale of a defensive effort.
    Indeed it was.
    Against a North Central team that had not been held under 30 points since 2014 (its final 11-man season), Forest Park’s defense yielded a first quarter touchdown—and nothing after that.
    The Trojans held the Jets to 171 total yards, denied the Jets any momentum-turning big plays and finally got to celebrate a 20-6 win in Division 2 regional semifinal play Oct. 27.
    “I saw Forest Park football like the old days,” coach Dave Graff told his guys in the excited post-game huddle, as a happy hubbub swirled around them.
    “You guys played smashmouth football, had your nose to grindstone, you played awesome D, you ground it out 3 yards, 4 yards, 5 yards, believing in the system, believing in yourself.”
    It means fans of the 7-2 Trojans get one final home game this fall - against 8-2 Engadine. The regional championship game kicks off at 6 p.m. on Nov. 3. The Eagles took down Rapid River 36-28 in the other regional semifinal.
    How did the Trojans win? It comes down to three words: Forest Park football. An offense that grinds relentlessly down the field. A defense that can stifle an opponent’s game plan. Players who know their jobs well and can be relied upon.
    That’s the kind of gridiron excellence Trojan fans have enjoyed for generations.             “I saw a glimpse of the traditional Forest Park teams of the past,” Graff said the next day. “They really played tough ball last night.”
    Forest Park took the opening kickoff and covered 63 yards on eight plays. The biggest play was the second one: Connor Bortolini punched through the left side, then angled to his right and covered 41 yards to the Jets 19.
    The NC defense forced 4th and 5 at the 15, but Bortolini took a direct snap and ran to the 6.

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