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Jets blast Marion, 50-2, in eight-player semifinal

Will face Portland St. Patrick Saturday for title

(Daryl T. Jarvinen photo) North Central quarterback Luke Gorzinski (11) scores one of his four first quarter rushing touchdowns Saturday morning in a MHSAA Division 2 8-player semifinal game a the Superior Dome in Marquette. Marion's Mason Salisbury (7) watches the play.

MARQUETTE – Welcome to high school football in January.

After not playing for nearly two months due to COVID-19, the North Central Jets made up for lost time at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome on Saturday in a 50-2 rout of Marion in an eight-player Division 2 semifinal that was among the first games to be played in Michigan in January.

“This feels amazing,” Jets’ senior lineman Fabian Chartier said. “It felt like we were starting all over again. In the first couple plays, we hit our key points, but just didn’t get it done. Their quarterback (sophomore Mason Salisbury) is definitely the best back we faced all year. We knew we had to focus on him.”

The victory sends the Jets (10-0) to the state championship game at Brighton, where they’ll face Portland St. Patrick (10-0) at 2 p.m. Eastern time Saturday; this was changed from what initially was announced to make the contest the early game. The Eagles finished 8-2.

“This felt great for the kids and community,” Jets’ coach Leo Gorzinski said. “The shutdown after the Cedarville game (a 55-8 triumph Nov. 13) was the toughest one, but the kids persevered and were hungry. I want to give a shout-out to the rest of the coaching staff. They’re a big part of what makes our engine run.”

North Central junior Carter Tietz (32) recovers a fumble he stripped out of the arms of Marion’s Thomas Jenema (44) in Saturday morning’s 50-2 MHSAA Division 2 eight-player semifinal win over Marion at the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Daryl Jarvinen photo)

Salisbury, who ran for 11 yards on Marion’s first play from scrimmage, completed five of 10 passes for 74. The Eagles were limited to 27 on the ground.

“Their speed on the line made a big difference,” Marion coach Chad Grundy said. “Our guys struggled with their blocking, and we couldn’t get anything going on offense. One of the big problems is our young guys have never been here before. They had the experience, and it showed. Our guys just made so many mistakes. This was a good year for us. Hopefully, we can use this as a building block and come back next year.”

Quarterback Luke Gorzinski gave North Central an 8-0 lead on a 40-yard run through the middle just 97 seconds into the contest.

The sophomore quarterback ran for three more scores and passed for another as the Jets expanded their lead to 36-0 by the end of the first quarter.

“We’ve been practicing in the domes the past couple weeks,” he said. “We were pretty ready. It felt so good to get a game in. It was a blessing. We just had to keep our heads up. For the seniors, this was (potentially) the last game for everyone.”

North Central quarterback Luke Gorzinski (11) throws a touchdown pass in the first quarter Saturday. (Daryl Jarvinen photo)

Junior reserve quarterback Brent LaBonte gave the Jets a 44-0 cushion on a 15-yard shovel pass to senior Carter Eichmeier with 8:24 left in the second frame, and junior Wyatt Raab added a 47-yard TD dash around left end at 5:08.

“It’s a blessing to be here, and playing in the (Superior) Dome is a great experience for everybody,” Eichmeier said. “We had two games left. Getting this postponed was very disappointing, but we’re glad to be here playing. We had all JV kids in there for the last two series. This was a great experience for them. This definitely gives us momentum for the finals.

“I think this game really boosted us, and practicing in here really helped everybody. We felt we should have been in the finals the past two years. We were playing for the guys who didn’t get that chance.”

The Eagles averted the shutout with a safety in the final 31 seconds.

“We came out a little sloppy, but that was to be expected after the long layoff,” Coach Gorzinski said. “It was a matter of finding out how soon we could hit our stride again. Once we did, good things started happening.”

The Jets, who substituted freely through much of the game, finished with 275 yards in total offense. Luke Gorzinski, who played mainly in just the opening frame, ran nine times for 123, and Raab added 65 on just three carries.

Freshman Gavin Prielipp led Marion in rushing with 45 yards in five attempts.

Marion 0 0 0 2 – 2

North Central 36 14 0 0 – 50

Scoring plays:

First quarter

NC – L. Gorzinski, 40-yard run (L. Gorzinski run), 10:23

NC – L. Gorzinski, seven-yard run (run successful), 8:36

NC – L. Gorzinski, 13-yard pass to Naser), 6:45

NC – L. Gorzinski, 35-yard run (pass failed), 4:44

NC – L. Gorzinski, 12-yard run (run failed). :20

Second quarter

NC – LaBonte, 15-yard pass to C. Eichmeier (LaBonte pass to C. Eichmeier), 8:24

NC – Raab, 47-yard run (kick failed), 5:08

Fourth quarter

M – Schmidt, safety, :31

Statistics

Total offense – North Central 275 yards (203 rushing, 72 passing); Marion 101 yards (27 rushing, 74 passing).

Rushing – North Central (L. Gorzinski 9-123, Raab 3-65, Tietz 2-15, Naser 3-10, Allgeyer 1-4, LaBonte 6-0, Riley 1-minus-2, E. Gorzinski 1-minus-6, O. Eichmeier 1-minus-10); Marion (Prielipp 5-45, Baker 1-3, Alberts 1-2, Salisbury 16-minus-11, Jenema 1-minus-12).

Passing – North Central (L. Gorzinski, 6-8, 57 yards, one touchdown, LaBonte, 1-1, 15 yards, one touchdown).

Receiving – North Central (Casperson 2-27, Naser 2-24, C. Eichmeier 1-15, I. Gorzinski 1-9, Kleiman 1-2); Marion (Jenema 1-39, Moggo 3-20, Prielipp 3-15).

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