By Dennis Grall
Special for Second Half
ESCANABA - The North Central Jets are champions.
Of the billions of words I've typed on keyboards over the years, none are more appropriate or more true than "The North Central Jets are champions."
It is more than what they have done on hardwoods and gridirons across the state.
Five MHSAA championships in the past three years underline those six words, but it is how the guys wearing red, black and white uniforms have comported themselves on those playgrounds.
They've done it with class all the way. They display wide smiles – at least where you can see their faces in basketball. They hug themselves and you after the game and thank you for coming and for your support.
They may run you over in football and leap above you in basketball, but that is their job and they have supreme joy in doing it well and getting it done the right way.
No matter who they play or where they play, the result has always been the same, another win. Think of it: They have won 134 games in those two sports, including 26 straight in football and a state-record 83 in basketball, with one lonely defeat over those past four hoops seasons. The title runs included two in 8-player football and the last three in Class D basketball.
The word “lose” is simply not in their vocabulary.
It has been a treat for all of us to watch them go about their business as they share a tremendous skill set and build an incredible legacy that has surpassed anything else in the Upper Peninsula.
Ishpeming football and girls basketball at Carney-Nadeau also have been model programs. And of course Chassell, which won three straight Class D basketball titles and 65 straight games in the 1950s.
It is unlikely North Central's current streak of 83 straight basketball wins will ever be surpassed. Don't forget, Chassell's record lasted 59 years and the Jets are now 18 games beyond that standard.
You can put this record up with Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak and the 18 majors of Jack Nicklaus as being unbreakable, along with the recently-ended University of Connecticut women's basketball streak of 111 straight wins that is beyond reality.
I don't know what the national high school win streak record is for boys basketball but found that Palmer, Iowa, is only fifth with 103 straight wins from 1986-89. (Editor’s Note: The record belongs to Passaic, NJ, with 159 straight from 1919-25, but no team has won even 85 consecutive since 2003-06.)
Let us just remember how wonderful it has been to be a spectator of this outstanding accomplishment and what it has done for the school, the community and the entire Upper Peninsula.
Thank you Jets. You are champions.
Denny Grall retired in 2012 after 39 years at the Escanaba Daily Press and four at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, plus 15 months for WLST radio in Escanaba; he served as the Daily Press sports editor from 1970-80 and 1984-2012, and as interim during the 2016-17 school year. Grall was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and serves as its executive secretary. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Upper Peninsula.
PHOTO: The Powers North Central boys basketball team holds up its Class D championship trophy last month at the Breslin Center.