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Jets earn third state title

Matt "Sweets" McCarthy | Iron Mountain Daily News The North Central football team celebrates after defeating Portland St. Patrick in the 8-player Division 2 State Final Saturday in Brighton.

BRIGHTON — On the most important day of their season, in the most important game, 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 8-player State Championship game Saturday afternoon at the Legacy Center in Brighton.

“I am so proud of everyone, our players, coaches and parents,” said Jets head coach Leo Gorzinski. “We worked hard for this, and we played a great team today that tested us in a way we’re not used to (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 their first possession, capped off with a 1-yard touchdown run from Gorzinski. Raab then snared the 2-point conversion pass from him for an 8-0 advantage.

The Shamrocks’, who play an independent regular-season schedule, first possession was a disaster. After getting pinned deep in their end of the field by the first of 10 booming kickoffs from 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 defensive linemen of the Jets kept the pressure up on the Shamrocks’ offensive line.

“Our front line and linebackers played well all season. Today, they played great,” coach Gorzinski exclaimed.

PSP put together a 13-play drive — getting themselves on the scoreboard on the first play of the second quarter — with a shovel pass from Cross to Seth Frawley, and 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 scored 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 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, which was the score 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,” said PSP head coach Patrick Russman. “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.

“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 them all, 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. But the Jets didn’t let up offensively either.

The Jets, who finished the season at 11-0, were able to preserve their 14-point halftime lead and led by the same margin at the end of the 3rd quarter, 48-28. As the second half wore on, each team continued to score at will.

Players on both teams getting tired as the game wore on, certainly had to do with the “track meet” that the latter part of the football game became.

“Portland St. Patrick gave us everything we could handle and kept coming at us,” Coach Gorzinski exclaimed. “Their quarterback, everyone wants to talk about Luke (Gorzinski), (but) 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, and 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, earning three TDs. Defensively, Braxton Teachworth had a game-high 14 tackles and a sack, and Jacobe Hayesdunning recorded 10 tackles for PSP.

The Jets did have an unfortunate set back this week leading up to the championship game. A handful of NC players were forced to remain back in Menominee County, due to contact tracing for the coronavirus.

“I need to set the record straight,” coach Gorzinski stated. “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 was also an all-U.P. selection at two positions, along with starters Carter and Caden Tietz, also had to miss the game.

Sophomores Owen Eichmeier, Dillion Raab, Eli Gorzinski and freshman Jacob Gorzinski, who were special teams contributors, also had to miss the game for the same reason.

“It’s heartbreaking for them to have to be left home, but the team was playing for them today,” coach Gorzinski said.

North Central 10 24 14 22 — 70

Portland St Patrick 0 22 6 20 — 48

1st 07:26 PNC Luke Gorzinski 1 yd run (Wyatt Raab pass from L. Gorzinski)

10 plays, 53 yards, TOP 4:34 8 – 0

06:18 PNC Wyatt Raab safety

10 – 0

2nd 11:56 PSP Seth Frawley 1 yd pass from Connor Cross (Connor Cross pass failed)

10 plays, 70 yards, TOP 4:41 10 – 6

09:27 PNC Luke Gorzinski 17 yd run (Luke Gorzinski rush)

6 plays, 54 yards, TOP 2:22 18 – 6

07:44 PSP Jacobe Hayesdunning 41 yd pass from Connor Cross (Lucas Simon rush)

3 plays, 76 yards, TOP 1:36 18 – 14

05:53 PNC Luke Gorzinski 5 yd run (Wyatt Raab rush)

5 plays, 65 yards, TOP 1:48 26 – 14

02:06 PSP Connor Cross 2 yd run (Shane Cook pass from C. Cross)

8 plays, 70 yards, TOP 3:41 26 – 22

01:06 PNC Ian Gorzinski 39 yd pass from Luke Gorzinski (Wyatt Raab rush)

6 plays, 61 yards, TOP 0:52 34 – 22

3rd 05:18 PSP Shane Cook 10 yd pass from Connor Cross (Connor Cross pass failed)

3 plays, 47 yards, TOP 1:41 34 – 28

03:32 PNC Wyatt Raab 52 yd run (Ian Gorzinski rush)

3 plays, 62 yards, TOP 1:38 42 – 28

00:34 PNC Wyatt Raab 27 yd pass from Luke Gorzinski (Luke Gorzinski pass failed)

2 plays, 31 yards, TOP 0:47 48 – 28

4th 09:54 PSP Shane Cook 4 yd pass from Connor Cross (Connor Cross pass failed)

11 plays, 61 yards, TOP 2:35 48 – 34

08:08 PNC Wyatt Raab 15 yd run (Luke Gorzinski pass failed)

3 plays, 58 yards, TOP 1:44 54 – 34

05:51 PSP Seth Frawley 31 yd pass from Connor Cross (Lucas Simon pass from C. Cross)

6 plays, 62 yards, TOP 2:09 54 – 42

05:14 PNC Wyatt Raab 37 yd pass from Luke Gorzinski (Luke Gorzinski rush)

2 plays, 51 yards, TOP 0:36 62 – 42

02:06 PSP Shane Cook 16 yd pass from Connor Cross (Connor Cross pass failed)

7 plays, 75 yards, TOP 3:00 62 – 48

01:49 PNC Luke Gorzinski 58 yd run (Brent Labonte rush)

2 plays, 65 yards, TOP 0:17 70 – 48

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