By BURT ANGELI
NORWAY - Forest Park, in a flashback to past memorable football battles with Norway, needed a big turnaround to turn back the Knights 35-22 Thursday at sauna-like Ronberg Field.
"This fit the bill of the old Norway-Forest Park football games with a lot of hard hitting out there," Forest Park Coach Bill Santilli said. "This was an excellent football game and Norway has a nice-looking team. Bob Madigan has done a wonderful job with this Norway football team."
Forest Park ran by Norway defenders to build a 19-0 lead early in the second quarter. The gritty Knights responded by threatening to overtake the Trojans in the fourth quarter.
"To compete with Crystal Falls says something for our kids, especially to be down 19-0," said Norway Coach Bob Madigan, regarding the Trojans among the best teams in the state. "Credit to (coaches Bill) Santilli and (Dave) Graff. They're quality guys, quality coaches and Forest Park is a quality program.
"I'm proud of the kids. They didn't quit and hung in there."
Forest Park quarterback Jeff Johnson ran 31 and four yards for the first two scores and Austin Snell took a pitch 43 yards for the third one.
Norway fought back with junior Jorden Neumann rambling two and 27 yards to close the gap to 19-14 with three minutes before halftime. The Trojans gained a 27-14 halftime cushion on Johnson's only pass completion of the night, a 58-yard scoring pitch to Snell.
In the third quarter, Norway dominated and moved to 27-22 after Knights quarterback Isaac Bray found Jake Pedrotti with a 14-yard scoring pass on fourth down with 1:52 left. Austin Grayvold grabbed the two-point conversion pass in a crowd.
"I thought we would never cross midfield again," said Santilli, his Trojans limited to four minutes of offense in the third quarter. "That whole third quarter was inside the red zone against us."
With less than nine minutes left in the game, Norway reached the Forest Park 20 on Bray's 18-yard pitch to Grayvold. That drive wound up with a fourth down pass being knocked down.
Santilli credited Derek Aberly for coming across to knock the pass down.
"Coach Madigan surprised us with that trip set," Santilli said. "We didn't know they had it. Bray throws the ball well and they have good receivers. They get out into those routes really fast."
Forest Park put the game away on the following series as Raymond Tomasik slammed in from the seven. The junior fullback rushed for 126 yards on 19 carries.
"We were in this football game," said Madigan, whose Knights stuffed Forest Park twice on fourth down runs but also made eight penalties. "It was just a good, solid, hard-hitting football game.
"We made some crucial errors. I think the kids realized they're not a bad team but you can't make undisciplined errors. I'm not blaming anyone, it's all of us. We're in this together and working as hard as we can."
Forest Park gained 339 yards, with 281 on the ground. Norway's offense amounted to 170 yards, with Neumann producing 77 on 16 trips and Bray completing six of 10 passes for 70 yards.
"Bray showed what kind of athlete he is," said Santilli, noting the senior quarterback left the game briefly in the second quarter with an injury. "I thought our quarterback, Jeff Johnson, also did a very nice job."
Game time temperature was over 90 degrees, with both teams handling the humid weather well.
"Both teams were conditioned pretty well," Madigan said. "We worked a little harder at that."
Santilli, soaked with perspiration, said both teams were "gassed."
"I think Coach Graff and I feel like we played tonight," Santilli said with a chuckle. "I give our guys credit. They hung in there. We had a lot of guys nursing hard-hit injuries and I think that went both ways.
"Plus playing in these temperatures. It was really a tough night to play football."
Zach Painter paced the Forest Park defense with eight tackles while junior Steven Hallman and freshman Adam Hilberg had seven each.
"We're playing some young kids on defense and I think that showed," Santilli said. "But what a better way to learn when you play a team like Norway, still dodge a bullet and earn a win on their field.
"That does great for the morale and confidence for these young kids."
Both teams return on Friday, with Forest Park (2-0) taking on Great Western Conference favorite Hurley and Norway (1-1) hosting rival Stephenson.
Forest Park 12 15 0 8 - 35
Norway 0 14 8 0 - 22
FP - Jeff Johnson 31 run (pass failed), 9:49.
FP - Johnson 4 run (kick failed), 1:22.
FP - Austin Snell 43 run (Johnson kick), 9:48.
N - Jorden Neumann 2 run (kick failed), 7:03.
N - Neumann 27 run (Elliott Reid from Isaac Bray), 3:14.
FP - Snell 58 pass from Johnson (Snell from Johnson), 2:19.
N - Jake Pedrotti 14 pass from Bray (Austin Grayvold from Bray), 1:52.
FP - Tomasik 7 run (Snell from Johnson), 3:18.
Total offense - Forest Park 339 (281 rushing, 58 passing), Norway 170 (100 rushing, 70 passing).
Rushing - Norway, Bray 9-17, Pedrotti 1-1, Grayvold 5-4, Hansley 4-1, Neumann 16-77; Forest Park, Tomasik 19-126, Johnson 11-82, Snell 8-60, Painter 3-13.
Passing - Norway, Bray 6-10-0, 70; Johnson 0-2-0, 0; Neumann 0-1-0, 0; Forest Park, 1-3-1, 58.
Receiving - Norway, Reid 1-2, Bal 1-15, Pedrotti 2-27, Grayvold 2-26; Forest Park, Snell 1-58.
Pass interceptions - Norway, Bal.
Penalties - Norway 8-45, Forest Park 5-35.
First downs - Norway 13, Forest Park 14.