By Jon Young
For The Daily News
FELCH - With the game tied at seven midway through the second quarter, North Dickinson quarterback Logan O'Neil tossed a ball up for Matt Schultz, who was covered by three North Central defenders.
Paul Girard Photo
North Dickinson’s Matt Schultz (27) dives into the endzone as North Central’s Jason Whitens (15) and Rob Granquist (7) move in during Friday’s Division 8 district championship.
"I was reading off the defenders and threw the ball as hard as I could and as far as I could," O'Neil said. "He just ended up coming down with it. I saw him catch it and run it and I was like there is no way that just happened."
The senior snagged the ball and bounced off the would be tacklers on his way to a 43-yard touchdown. O'Neil hit Noah Berg for a two-point conversion and the Nordics took a 15-7 lead en route to a 35-13 MHSAA Division 8 district championship win over North Central on Friday.
"I saw the ball just way up there and I could see (Eric) Prestay running at me and I was like OK I'm just going to go up and make sure I hold onto the ball," Schultz said. "Just how he hit me, he hit me perfect where we both collided and turned me right around. I guess it was just kind of a lucky situation."
It came on the heels of an unlucky situation for the Jets, who just a possession before were on the verge of taking a lead.
North Central quarterback Rob Granquist hit Jason Whitens for a 47-yard touchdown but the play was called back due to an illegal motion penalty. The Jets couldn't convert on third-and-nine and were forced to punt.
"One of the guys jumped, I don't know exactly what happened but that was a huge play," said Jets head coach Kevin Bellefeuil. "That took the momentum from us and put it back to them and then that other play happened and then it went down there."
The Nordics took the momentum swing and hit the ground running, racking up the three touchdowns via the rushing duo of Schultz and Tim Hruska.
Schultz found the endzone from 15 yards out with 6:46 remaining in the third quarter and Hruska cut a 25-yard run up the middle for a touchdown on the following Nordic possession.
Schultz finished the game with 21 carries for 166 yards. He rushed for two touchdowns and caught another.
"Once he got things going, he's a big guy and once he gets a full head of steam up he's tough to bring down and I thought he made some good cuts and he just let the game come to him," said Nordics head coach Joe Reddinger. "He didn't try to force too much."
Bellefeuil said North Dickinson's combination of power and speed in the backfield began to wear on his team.
"Thunder and lighting, big and fast and quick and then you kind of forget about (Derek) Wagner and he gashes you for a five or six-yard run," he said. "We made some big plays, just not enough of them."
Hruska put the Nordics ahead 35-7 with 4:39 left in the fourth quarter on a two-yard score, his second of the game. The drive ate nearly five minutes of clock and kept the Jets high powered passing game off the field.
"I thought we did what we had to do, we controlled the football, we kept their offense off the field, especially in that second half," Reddinger said. "The time of possession was what we thought was key to the game and we executed it."
The Jets were able to get into a rhythm late in the fourth quarter as Granquist led a seven-play, 55-yard drive, capped off by a 27-yard touchdown strike to senior Travis Vincent.
"I told the seniors down the stretch when it was 35-7, how do you want to walk off this field?" Bellefeuil said. "Do you want to punch another one in and walk off this field with your head held or high or do you want to walk off the field like this? They said we were going to score and we did. I can't say enough about those seniors, they're great kids."
N. Dickinson 0 15 6 14 - 35
North Central 7 0 0 6 - 13
NC: Josh Granquist, 5-yard touchdown run (Jason Whitens kick) 7-0, 4:01
ND: Matt Schultz, 7-yard touchdown run (Logan O'Neil kick), 7-7, 10:47
ND: Schultz 43 pass from O'Neil (2-pt good, Logan throw), 15-7, .56
ND: Schultz, 15-yard touchdown run (xp no good) 21-7, 6:45
ND: Tim Hruska, 25-yard touchdown run, (O'Neil xp good) 28-7, 10:28
ND: Hruska, 2-yard touchdown run, (O'Neil xp good) 35-7, 4:39
NC: Travis Vincent, 27 yard touchdown catch, Granquist throw, (2-pt no good) 35-13, 3:20