By RON DEUTER
FELCH - Two Mid-Eastern Conference foes will decide a MHSAA Division 8 district champion Friday night when North Central travels to take on North Dickinson.
Rand Hruska Photo
North Dickinson’s Justin Clark (57) runs after recovering a fumble in last week’s Division 8 pre-district game against Pickford.
The Nordics own a 20-game win streak in the series against the Jets, but needed a second-half comeback to gain a 36-20 win the regular-season clash this fall.
"It was very close last time," Nordics coach Joe Reddinger said, noting that his team trailed 14-6 in the third quarter before rallying for the win and clinching the league title.
The Jets were beating North Dickinson 14-6 and had the ball on the Nordic 14-yard line when a fourth and inches came up just short, resulting in a North Central turnover. The Nordics responded with three straight touchdowns to take a 29-14 lead.
"They made a play, we need to make a play," Jets coach Kevin Bellefeuil told the Daily Press. "We just need to make a couple of plays. They made a couple of plays last time and turned the tide of the game."
The Nordics ran for 350 yards in the win, doing that without Tim Hruska. Noah Berg produced a big game for the Nordics, running 16 times for 140 yards and a touchdown. Derek Wagner had 127 yards with a score. Matt Schultz totaled 81 yards with another touchdown.
"Noah Berg had a big game last time," Reddinger said. "It's just a matter of them choosing their poison a bit. They chose to try to shut down Schultz. It's hard to say what they're going to do this time. I imagine they're going to be well aware of Mr. Hruska."
Hruska returned to action last week after missing the past month with an ankle injury. He rushed for 144 yards on 10 carries, including two scores of 56 and 57 yards.
"He did a nice job for his first game back," Reddinger said. "He was a little bit rusty, but he seems to be fine. We'll all keep our fingers crossed."
North Central's offense found success against the Nordics in the earlier meeting. Quarterback Rob Granquist threw for 175 yards, while Josh Granquist ran for 106. Freshman receiver Jason Whitens caught six passes for 80 yards.
In their 35-21 pre-district win over Munising last week, Granquist threw for 201 yards with four touchdowns, two of those going to Whitens.
"I don't know if you can slow them down," Reddinger said. "It might one of those games where you have to outscore them, or hope they make some errors.
"They have two or three really good receivers. They have a good running back. And they have a very smart QB who knows what he is doing. They are very, very hard to defend. We were fortunate to stay in ball game last time."
Reddinger added that the Nordics' offense might be its best defense in the game.
"Defensively, where do you want to stop them?" he said. "If you try to stop the passing game, they run. If you try to put the heat on, they will dink and dunk you to death. They have a really, really nice offensive football team and they are not too shabby on defense."
Reddinger points to U.P. Defensive Player of the Year Eric Prestay and Travis Vincent as two of the leaders on defense. They combined for three sacks last week, while Prestay forced two fumbles.
"They are as tough as nails," he said.
Munising head coach Jeff Seaberg said that Prestay was the difference in the game last week, 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 told the Daily Press. "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."
Reddinger is hoping it won't take a second half comeback this time around. The Nordics also trailed in last week's playoff opener before outscoring Pickford 21-0 in the second half.
"The kids have to play," he said. "They had us on our heels a bit last week. They only thing that stopped them was halftime. We came out and shut them down in the second half.
"This one will be the same as every game. It always comes down to blocking and tackling."
North Central's last win over the Nordics was a 1993 regular-season victory. The teams also met in the postseason that season, with ND prevailing. That 1993 playoff contest was the last time the teams met in postseason play.
"Everybody is really excited for this team and the whole community and the school, the kids are excited, the coaches are excited," said Bellefeuil. "We beat a very good football team in Munising, they were really, really coming on and we had a really good night there. We forced some turnovers and got somethings to go our way so we hope to continue that kind of momentum."
NOTES: North Dickinson expects to be at full strength except for Jonas Christian who is a game-time decision North Central's Josh Granquist, who ran for 108 yards in the first meeting against the Nordics, is nursing an injury he suffered Sunday while working at his farm but is expected to play.