POWERS - The lone turnover was enough to turn the tide in Friday night's meeting between undefeated football powers North Central and Forest Park.
It ended up being another confirmation that Forest Park is still Forest Park and the Trojans are not going anywhere.
Though the Jets (4-1) moved the ball through the air, hit hard and stifled the Trojans (5-0) early, eventually that signature brand of Forest Park football prevailed and the No. 1-ranked (UPSSA) Trojans romped 35-8.
Keith Shelton |?Daily Press
North Central Jets quarterback?Rob Granquist (7) gets a pass off as Forest Park?Trojans defender Raymond Tomasik (10)?applies pressure during their game Friday night at Powers. Forest Park won 35-8.
"Their tradition comes from a great program and great programs are built by great coaches, and their staff is excellent," said Jets coach Kevin Bellefeuil, referring to decorated veteran coach Bill Santilli and his staff.
Santilli, even after his team's many state championship game appearances, takes nothing for granted and is a man who clearly appreciates every victory.
"We watched North Central play on tape and watched film from last year," Santilli said. "I will say they've drastically improved from last year defensively. We got 35 points, but we had to work for every point we had tonight.
Forest Park 0 14 14 7 - 35
N. Central 0 0 0 8 - 8
FP - Lee Graff, 11 yard rush, 2pt run, 11:53
FP - Austin Snell, 42-yard rush, 2pt run failed, 7:22
FP - Graff, 20-yard rush, 2pt pass, 6:50
FP - Snell, 55-yard reception from Jeff Johnson, 2pt run failed, 4:02
FP - Connor Kezerle 3-yard rush, kick good, 7:08
NC - Travis Vincent, 4-yard reception from Rob Granquist, 2pt pass, 2:37
Forest Park - 334 (279 rushing, 55 passing)
North Central - 258 (76 rushing, 182 passing)
Forest Park - Austin Snell (13-124); Lee Graff (20-141); Raymond Tomasik (4-8); Jeff Johnson (4-6); Connor Kezerle (1-3).
North Central - Josh Granquist (10-63); Rob Granquist (5-13).
Forest Park - Jeff Johnson (1-7-55-1-0)
North Central - Rob Granquist (15-37-182-1-1)
"It was a real hard hitting game," he added. "Take nothing away from North Central. That's probably as physical a game as we've been in."
The game was a scoreless tie entering the second quarter as both teams seemed to veer slightly from their usual offense.
The Jets came out heavily favoring the pass. Their first 11 plays were through the air and they ran the ball only twice in the first half. Forest Park began by handing off to end Raymond Tomasik multiple times, a couple of incomplete passes from quarterback Jeff Johnson and some quarterback keepers before getting their offense rolling with tailback Austin Snell and fullback Lee Graff.
Snell and Graff both had monster games. Snell had eight first half carries while Graff got the bulk of the work in the second half. Both finished with well over 100 yards rushing; Snell with 124 yards on 13 carries with one touchdown and Graff with 141 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns. Most of Graff's early carries were for small gains that effectively moved the chains, but as the game went on he and the Trojans powerful line seemed to wear down the Jets and a couple big gains of 20 yards boosted his totals.
Granquist, who was 10-for-24 passing in the first half for 108 yards, finished 15-for-37 for 182 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The pass-heavy offense took the Trojans by surprise.
"With Josh (Granquist) in the backfield, I thought for sure they'd try to pop him out there a little bit and we planned for them to go 50/50, watching the screen, and him getting the ball on a few Jets' sweeps," said Santilli. "It kind of surprised all of us that they entirely went pass early on, but it worked. They were getting 5-10 yards every pass they were throwing. They were executing well and we started out flat again.
"I do give credit to our guys for hanging in there and not leaving the gameplan that we worked on all week," he added. "Our defensive effort was excellent. We did just enough to control Rob's throwing ability. He's a great quarterback and sees the field so well and has a quick release."
The key turning point in the game came at the end of the first quarter when Granquist was sacked, causing a fumble deep in Jets territory that was recovered by the Trojans. The Jets in large part executed well throughout, but the one turnover was costly.
"They caught us in a blitz and sent one more than we could block," lamented Bellefeuil. "That's the big risk, big reward. We didn't get the quick read."
Given a short field, only 11 yards to paydirt, the Trojans capitalized and Graff powered in two plays later.
On the Jets' ensuing drive, tight end Travis Vincent made a spectacular one-handed grab between two defenders for a 32 yard reception to get the Jets down to the Trojans' 37. Granquist got down to the 25 yard line when he hit his cousin Josh Granquist, but on fourth down, Rob Granquist was incomplete. The Jets turned it over on downs and the Trojans marched down the field to score again. The 14-0 lead was carried into halftime but from there, it was simply Forest Park football all the way.
The Jets did get on the board with just over two minutes remaining in the game when Granquist found Vincent in the corner of the endzone for a 4-yard reception.
Josh Granquist got plenty of carries in the second half and made the most of them, rushing for 63 yards on 10 carries.
"We had some things that we were going to try and do. We just didn't feel like we were going to line up and smash footballs with them," explained Bellefeuil. "We took some shots and had a couple of dropped balls, but when you throw it a lot, it's big play, big reward, big loss when you don't get it."
The Jets travel to Newberry next week while Forest Park hosts North Dickinson in an anticipated matchup between 5-0 teams.