Jets soar into postseason
POWERS- Trailing 10-7 in the third quarter, North Central quarterback Rob Granquist hit a wide open Jason Whitens who dropped a would be touchdown, bringing up fourth down.
The next play Granquist scrambled and found Whitens again, this time the wide-out hauled in the pass from 10 yards out to give the Jets a 13-10 lead over Stephenson with 7:53 left in the third quarter.
“He’s a freshman but he’s my cousin, we got that chemistry and I knew he was mad at himself for dropping that one but I was going to go right back to him because he’s just that kind of guy, he’s going to make a play,” Granquist said.
It was the Jets first lead of the game and they never looked back en-route to a 27-22 win over the Eagles, who needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“Our kids played awful hard,” said Jets head coach Kevin Bellefeuil. “If this is what playoff football is, then we had a good test tonight because that’s a good football team, they’re solid, they run the ball well, they’re big upfront, and they play solid defense.”
Stephenson’s solid defense kept North Central in check for most of the first half, as the Jets were only able to score a touchdown and trailed 10-7 heading into the break.
“Stephenson came out and played hard, they had momentum in the first half but we came out at halftime with adjustments and got the momentum back on our side,” Granquist said.
“Us players, as a team got together and we decided that we got to pick up our intensity and that’s what we did when we came out in the second half.”
The Jets (7-2) clogged up the Eagles running game in the third quarter, forcing two consecutive three-and-outs after the Whitens touchdown.
The Jets struggled running the ball as well but Granquist and staff took advantage of the open field left by the Stephenson blitz. Granquist hit senior tight-end Travis Vincent, who hurdled a Stephenson defender on his way to a 24-yard touchdown, putting the Jets up 20-10 with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
Stephenson (4-4) responded with a touchdown drive, capped off by Quintin Lukasik’s score from one-yard out. The drive consumed nearly 10 minutes of clock and a failed two-point conversion left the Eagles trailing 20-16.
Three plays later, Granquist hit Andrew Estrad, who caught the ball near the left sideline and bolted 60 yards for the score with 2:16 remaining.
“They had three of their athletes make plays in space, and we didn’t want to have their athletes with guys in space because they’re loaded with athletes,” said Eagles head coach Chad Brandt. “We made them work, made them work, but when it came down to it, those three plays in space they out athleted us which hurts.”
Stephenson kept the game alive as they scored on their next possession and had all three timeouts remaining. After a failed onside kick, North Central took over at their own 37-yard line. After forcing a fourth-and-one, it looked like Stephenson might get the ball back, but Jets running back Josh Granquist dove forward for a three-yard gain and North Central was able to run the clock out.
“I’m proud of our efforts against a real good football team, which I have been all year,” Brandt said. “This group has always given us great effort, we just come up a little bit short on a few ends just like tonight.”
The Jets are playoff bound, after completing their fourth seven win season in school history and the first since 1993.
“I’m so proud of our kids and it was a great night for North Central football,” Bellefeuil said.
N. Central 0 7 13 7 – 27
Stephenson 2 8 0 12 – 22