By PAUL PETERSON
For The Daily News
LAKE LINDEN - One play can often make the difference in a close football game.
Such was the case in Saturday's North Central at Lake Linden-Hubbell clash at Warner Field.
The Lakes had just tied the non-league game at 14-all early in the fourth quarter when they kicked off to NC's Josh Granquist.
Granquist returned the boot all the way to the LL-36, and the visitors quickly cashed in for the go-ahead score on a 4-yard run by quarterback Rob Granquist.
"The kickoff return was a big play," Jets' coach Kevin Bellefeuil said after his team's 22-14 win. "It was kind of a busted return. They (Lakes) had it shut down, but one of their guys fell down and all sudden, Josh (Granquist) got the sideline. That was huge, that was huge."
The outcome lifted NC to 3-0 on the season, believed to be their first 3-0 start since 1980. The Lakes slipped to 1-2.
The pinpoint passing of Rob Granquist was the major reason that North Central was able to escape from a place Bellefeuil pointed out "is mighty hard to win at."
"He (Granquist) is a really smart quarterback," the Jets coach said. "Sometimes he gets happy feet .... and doesn't plant his feet .... and throws short. But he's really solid most of the time."
For the game, the lanky 6-foot-4 Granquist connected on 13-of-23 passes for 175 yards and two scores.
The eventual winners took an 8-0 lead early in the second period when Granquist found tight end Travis Vincent with a 14-yard TD strike. Devin Wodrazka caught the two-point PAT.
The locals answered back later in the quarter when Tylor Rickard plunged in from a yard away. But the all-important PAT pass failed, making for an 8-6 score.
The Lakes threatened late in the half before Beauchamp lost a fumble.
The Lakes rolled the dice -- and lost -- in the third quarter when they went on a 4th down and 3 at their own 28-yard line.
NC stuffed the play at the Lakes 25 and Granquist needed just one play to fire a scoring strike to Andrew Estrada for a 14-6 count.
The Lakes answered back early in the final stanza, scoring on a 17-yard run by Roose and tied it on a PAT run by Beauchamp, the game's top rusher with 123 yards in 21 carries.
But then came the telltale kickoff return by the Jets.
An interception by Josh Granquist in the end zone with 2:11 remaining all but sealed it.
Jets hosts Baraga Friday.
North Central 8 6 0 8 - 22
LL-Hubbell 0 6 0 8 - 14
NC - Travis Vincent 14 pass from Rob Granquist (Devin Wodrazka pass from Granquist)
LL -Tylor Rickord 1 run (pass failed)
NC - Andrew Estrada 25 pass from R. Granquist (run failed)
LL - Tyler Roose 17 run (Cole Beauchamp run)
NC - R. Granquist 4 run (Josh Granquist run)
First downs: NC 7, LL 17; Rushing: NC 24-56; LL 53-236; Passing: NC - R. Granquist 13-23-0-175; LL - Kumpula 4-10-1-75; Ind. Rushing: NC - J. Granquist 19-54; LL - Beauchamp 21-123; Roose 11-55; Rickord 12-36; Walli 5-32; Receiving: NC -Vincent 4-53; Wodrazka 2-31; LL - Roose 2-48, Beauchamp 1-16; Ongie 1-9.