Jets’ stars shine in historic win
POWERS – These Jets have wings.
In a playoff game, you want your star players to be at their best and North Central got it in spades from Rob Granquist, Jason Whitens, Eric Prestay, Travis Vincent, Josh Granquist and the whole fleet.
In front of a jam packed house, North Central won the first postseason game in school history Friday night, a 35-21 victory over Munising, and they did it as a team.
“We had a double overtime game we played against Rudyard a couple years ago and that was a heart pounder, but this was the same thing tonight,” said Jets head coach Kevin Bellefeuil.
“Bobby Kleiman made some huge plays, Andy Estrada, Devin Wodrazka, the offensive and defensive lines, Zach Ryan picking up that screen pass, it was a heck of a job by those kids.”
This was an instant classic.
North Central soared out of the gates with two first quarter scores and a 14-0 lead. Munising struck back quickly, tying the game at 14-14 but the Jets refueled with two more scores, one off a turnover to take a 28-14 lead into the half. And what a half of football it was.
Josh Granquist came out of the gates with a head full of steam, playing far above his weight and requiring multiple Mustangs to bring him down. Rob Granquist took over from there. He threw touchdown passes of 11, 9, 18 and 3, two of them to his cousin Whitens. The 6-foot-4 freshman receiver was sensational with five catches for 61 yards.
Granquist was at his best, making multiple throws on the run, scrambling out of the pocket and hitting receivers with accurate, tight spirals. Granquist was 15-for-28 for 201 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Munising presented quite a challenge as well, and for most of the game, looked every bit like a team that had won six straight to get here.
Austin Kelto was quick and slick at quarterback, converting multiple broken plays into big gains as he rushed 21 times for 161 yards and a touchdown.
“They have maybe the most dynamic player in the conference in Kelto,” said Bellefeuil. “He’s slippery, he’s fast, he can throw it…I wish he was a senior.”
The Jets defense stood tall as well, all but shutting down star receiver Andy Cooper, limiting him to one big catch of 33 yards. Kelto completed just 2-of-12 passes and was constantly harassed by Prestay and Vincent who combined for three sacks.
Prestay also forced two fumbles, living up to his recent All-U.P. Defensive Player of the Year award.
“We forced them into a position where they had to throw the ball, and they like to throw as a byproduct of their run, not as their defense and we forced them into that,” said Bellefeuil.
Prestay took it to task that the Mustangs were focused on limiting him.
“I saw in the paper that they were trying to gameplan against me,” he said. “I had a really good game up there, I was trying to live up to it, I couldn’t do much more.
“We were going all out, working all season and preparing for this they whole year. We knew we were a good team coming in, we just had to work hard.”
Seaberg said that Prestay was the difference in the game, causing multiple turnovers.
“He’s a heck of a ballplayer and he’ll carry them a long ways. He’s the heart of that defense as far as we’re concerned,” Seaberg said. “He was tough against us the first time, and the second time. He played his tail off. Credit to them, I won’t take anything away, they came ready to fight.”
Perhaps the most exciting play of the game came late in the second quarter. Rob Granquist flicked the ball to Whitens and Whitens, who quarterbacked the jayvee team, threw it 27 yards downfield to Wodrazka. One play later Granquist rolled right and found Whitens in the end zone.
Seaberg lamented the four turnovers by his team, two interceptions and two lost fumbles were exactly what he was concerned about coming in.
“We had some unfortunate turnovers that you can’t spot a team like North Central and expect to win. We came out on the short end,” he said.
“But our kids did not stop fighting. Tonight we were down by 14 and that’s the most we’ve trailed by all season. They have unbelievable character as young as they are – we only start two seniors. We’ll have quite a crew returning next year.”
The Jets (8-2) are now off to North Dickinson (7-2) next week to play for a district title.
“Munising would have presented as much of a challenge for North Dickinson as we will,” he said. “It’s just another challenge and we’re looking forward to it.”