North Central captures state football championship, 70-48
Undefeated season culminates with 3rd grid title since 2015
BRIGHTON — North Central got four touchdowns apiece from quarterback Luke Gorzinski and running back Wyatt Raab as the Jets defeated Portland St. Patrick, 70-48, in the MHSAA Division 2 eight-player state championship game Saturday afternoon at the Legacy Center in Brighton.
“I am so proud of everyone, our players, coaches and parents,” Jets head coach Leo Gorzinski said. “We worked hard for this and we played a great team today that tested us in a way we’re not used to (in the passing game) and our kids stepped up and made plays that needed to be made.”
North Central got on the scoreboard first with a long, pounding drive on its first possession, capped by a 1-yard Luke Gorzinski run. Raab snared the 2-point conversion pass from Gorzinski for an 8-0 advantage.
The Shamrocks, who play an independent regular season schedule, had a disaster of a first possession, to say the least. After getting pinned deep in its own end of the field by the first of 10 booming kickoffs by all-U.P. Dream Team kicker Daniel Dani, PSP all-state quarterback Connor Cross got sacked on the first play from scrimmage by seniors Ian Gorzinski and Fabian Chartier.
Ian Gorzinski ended the game with two more sacks for a total of 2.5, while Chartier added one sack of his own for a total of 1.5 for the game.
On the next play, Cross got sacked again, this time by Raab — in the end zone — resulting in a safety to give the Jets a 10-0 lead with 6:18 remaining in the first quarter.
The three Jets defensive linemen played well, putting pressure on the Shamrocks’ offensive line. “Our front line and linebackers played well all season. Today, they played great,” coach Gorzinski said.
PSP put together a 13-play drive, getting on the scoreboard on the first play of the second quarter, with a shovel pass from Cross to Seth Frawley. A failed 2-point conversion made it 10-6 Jets.
In the next nine minutes of the game, the teams traded scores on ensuing possessions. At the 2:06 mark of the second stanza, the Shamrocks got on the scoreboard to tighten the Jets lead to 26-22.
On the Jets’ last drive of the first half, Luke Gorzinski took a hard hit as he scrambled to make a pass attempt to his cousin Ian; the hit took Luke Gorzinski out of the game for a play to be looked over by the trainer.
“Luke showed his leadership and toughness coming right back into the game after a hit like that,” coach Gorzinski said, “but in the same breath, anyone on this team will battle for him, like he does for them.”
When Luke Gorzinski returned to the field, he threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Ian Gorzinski with 1:06 left in the half. Raab added a successful 2-point conversion run to extend North Central’s lead to 34-22 at the half.
“We knew coming in that North Central was a great team, we also knew that our defense was going to have to make plays,” PSP head coach Patrick Russman said. “I also knew that our offense was going to have to try to keep up with their offense. We did do that passing the ball, but we couldn’t gain anything running.
Russman added, “Their defense kept a lot of pressure on our O-line all day, and our backs stepped up and made blocks, giving Connor (Cross) time to throw.”
Cross had a sensational game, passing for 374 yards and six touchdowns, and the Shamrocks needed all of those yards, as their running game only amassed 30 yards on 26 attempts.
The North Central defense kept coming at the Shamrocks in the second half, so Russman spread the team’s offense out, moving the ball down the field. But the Jets didn’t let up offensively either.
The Jets, who finished the season at 11-0, were able to preserve a 14-point halftime lead, holding the same margin at the end of the third quarter, 48-28. As the second half wore on, each team continued to score at will.
Many players in eight-player football throughout the state are forced to play both ways due to roster sizes. Players on both teams got tired as the game wore on, certainly due to the “track meet” the latter part of the football game became.
“Portland St. Patrick gave us everything we could handle and kept coming at us,” coach Gorzinski said. “Their quarterback, everyone wants to talk about Luke (Gorzinski), I tell you what — their quarterback played one of the bravest and toughest games I saw another player play. He was definitely on the money with his throws.”
To go along with his seven total touchdowns and 455 combined yards, Luke Gorzinski led the Jets with 10 tackles in the game. Ian Gorzinski had nine tackles, while Luke Kleiman intercepted a Cross pass in the third quarter.
For the Shamrocks, who finished the season at 10-1, wide receiver Shane Cook tallied 179 receiving yards on 13 receptions, and he reached paydirt three times.
Defensively, Braxton Teachworth had a game-high 14 tackles and a sack. Jacobe Hayes-Dunning recorded 10 tackles for PSP.
The Jets did have an unfortunate setback this week leading up to the championship game. A handful of North Central players were forced to remain in Menominee County and not make the trip downstate due to contact tracing for the coronavirus.
“I need to set the record straight,” coach Gorzinski said. “We don’t have a single player sick. We don’t have a single player with symptoms. The kids we had to leave home are there because of contact tracing. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Senior lineman Carter Eichmeier, who was an all-U.P. Dream Team and Associated Press all-state lineman, was unable to play in the championship game. Juniors Alex Naser, who also was all-U.P. selection at two positions, along with starters Carter and Caden Tietz, had to miss the game as well.
Sophomores Owen Eichmeier, Dillion Raab, Eli Gorzinski and freshman Jacob Gorzinski, who were special teams contributors, missed the game, too, due to the COVID-19 contact tracing.
“It’s heartbreaking for them to have to be left home, but the team was playing for them today,” coach Gorzinski said.
MHSAA DIVISION 2
NC 10 24 14 22 — 70
PSP 0 22 6 20 — 48
07:26 NC-Luke Gorzinski, 1-yard run (Wyatt Raab pass from L. Gorzinski), 10 plays, 53 yards, TOP 4:34 8-0
06:18 NC-Wyatt Raab, safety 10-0
11:56 SP-Seth Frawley, 1-yard pass from Connor Cross (Connor Cross pass failed), 10 plays, 70 yards, TOP 4:41 — 10-6
09:27 NC-Luke Gorzinski, 17-yard run (Luke Gorzinski rush), 6 plays, 54 yards, TOP 2:22 — 18-6
07:44 SP-Jacobe Hayesdunning, 41-yard pass from Connor Cross (Lucas Simon rush), 3 plays, 76 yards, TOP 1:36 — 18-14
05:53 NC- Luke Gorzinski, 5-yard run (Wyatt Raab rush), 5 plays, 65 yards, TOP 1:48 — 26-14
02:06 SP-Connor Cross, 2-yard run (Shane Cook pass from C. Cross), 8 plays, 70 yards, TOP 3:41 — 26-22
01:06 NC-Ian Gorzinski, 39-yard pass from Luke Gorzinski (Wyatt Raab rush), 6 plays, 61 yards, TOP 0:52 — 34-22
05:18 SP-Shane Cook, 10-yard pass from Connor Cross (Connor Cross pass failed), 3 plays, 47 yards, TOP 1:41 — 34-28
03:32 NC-Wyatt Raab, 52-yard run (Ian Gorzinski rush), 3 plays, 62 yards, TOP 1:38 — 42-28
00:34 NC-Wyatt Raab, 27 yd pass from Luke Gorzinski (Luke Gorzinski pass failed), 2 plays, 31 yards, TOP 0:47, 48-28
09:54 SP-Shane Cook, 4-yard pass from Connor Cross (Connor Cross pass failed), 11 plays, 61 yards, TOP 2:35 — 48-34
08:08 NC-Wyatt Raab, 15-yard run (Luke Gorzinski pass failed), 3 plays, 58 yards, TOP 1:44 — 54-34
05:51 SP-Seth Frawley, 31-yard pass from Connor Cross (Lucas Simon pass from C. Cross), 6 plays, 62 yards, TOP 2:09, 54-42
05:14 NC-Wyatt Raab, 37-yard pass from Luke Gorzinski (Luke Gorzinski rush), 2 plays, 51 yards, TOP 0:36 — 62-42
02:06 SP-Shane Cook, 16-yard pass from Connor Cross (Connor Cross pass failed), 7 plays, 75 yards, TOP 3:00 — 62 – 48
01:49 NC-Luke Gorzinski, 58-yard run (Brent Labonte rush), 2 plays, 65 yards, TOP 0:17 — 70-48
Kickoff time: 2:03 p.m. End of game: 5:01 p.m. Total elapsed time: 2:58
Referee: E. Frihnep. Umpire: B Mendyk. Linesman: A.E. Thomas. Line judge: D. Polack. Back judge: J. Clark. Stats: W. Mena.