North Central Extends Dominance with 37th-Straight Win, 3rd-Straight Title

By Jason Juno
Special for Second Half

November 19, 2022

MARQUETTE – What a run it’s been for North Central.

The Jets haven’t lost a game over the last three years and very few, if any of those games, have been close. They’ve won them all by multiple touchdowns and just three games have finished with a margin under 30 points. Most have been won by a lot more.

Their opponent in Saturday’s Division 2 championship game, Mendon, brought a strong tradition of its own, with 12 previous Finals appearances.

But this is North Central’s era, and that’s no secret. So imagine what it must do to a team’s psyche when that juggernaut returns the opening kickoff and adds another touchdown before a full minute runs off the clock.

The Jets turned that 14-0 lead into a 66-26 win for their third consecutive – and fifth total – 8-player championship Saturday at the Superior Dome. They also won a state-record 37th straight game.

“It’s gotta be part of the mystique and part of what these kids built,” North Central coach Leo Gorzinski said. “You want to have a two-touchdown lead in their head before you get off that bus. When you come out there and do that, set that tone, of course it’s going to get in their mind.”

And North Central did it with standout quarterback, and reigning Associated Press Player of the Year Luke Gorzinski, playing through what the Jets suspect is an ACL injury.

It was Elijah Gorzinski who returned the opening kickoff 85 yards to put North Central on the board just 11 seconds into the contest. Mendon muffed the ensuing kickoff and North Central’s kicker, Adrian Mercier, recovered. Two plays later, Lane Gorzinski caught a 14-yard Luke Gorzinski pass for a touchdown and a 14-0 Jets lead 50 seconds into the game.

And North Central didn’t let up.

Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) bursts into an opening. The Jets scored two more touchdowns in the first quarter, one on a 36-yard run by Dillon Raab and the other a 36-yard pass from Luke Gorzinski to Lane Gorzinski to make it 28-0.

Luke Gorzinski threw two TD passes in the second quarter, a 30-yarder to Dylan Plunger and another 20 yards to Jordan Messenger for a 41-6 lead at the half.

That opening kick return that set the tone came after North Central waited and waited for the D-1 title game to get over. The Jets went from amped up to play to the concession stand getting brats.

“We were flat; they were ready to take a nap,” Coach Gorzinski said. “Once that (return) happened, it was game on from there.”

That made four touchdown passes in the half for Gorzinski, who is explosive getting to the edge normally, but not Saturday with his injury. Leo said he wouldn’t get it checked out before the game because he just wanted to play, but Leo fears it will be an ACL injury once diagnosed.

“Thank God they didn’t catch on for a whole half that Luke Gorzinski can’t run,” Coach Gorzinski said. “He never ran a single time, and they never adjusted or blitzed him. I’ll praise God for that. Because if they would have blitzed him, I would have pulled him. That, for me, was the single thing – we knew they had a weak pass defense.”

Gorzinski ran for one touchdown in the second half, from a yard out. He caught a 33-yard TD pass and Lane Gorzinski ran 38 yards for six.

Jacob and Lane Gorzinski picked up the slack running the ball with 132 yards and 90 yards, respectively, with both getting eight carries. Four receivers caught touchdowns – Lane Gorzinski, Plunger, Messenger and Luke Gorzinski.

“If you watch what Jacob Gorzinski did today (on the ground), that’s Luke to a T, that’s Luke’s specialty. With Jacob Gorzinski stepping up, with Lane stepping up, with Dylan Plunger stepping up, the heart that Dillon Raab showed up there tonight, all of them, Max Nason, Jordan Messenger, Andrew Weber,” Coach Gorzinski said.

The Jets line up on offense, led by quarterback Luke Gorzinski. Luke Gorzinski finished the day with the single yard on the ground, and only that one carry, but he was 13 of 24 passing for 207 yards and four touchdowns.

He didn’t want to talk about how much it hurt. 

“It’s Luke, man, he can play through anything,” Jacob Gorzinski said. “He’s a tough kid.”

Any way you slice it, Luke helped boost his team to a third-straight title.

“You come into this game knowing we could probably get the edge on these guys and we had good running out of our trip set, but with a bum wheel, we were limited,” he said. “We came out throwing a little more and put faith in our pass catchers, and they got it done.”

They made so many big plays, the kick return, long runs by the other guys, those big pass plays. It’s hard for an opponent to keep up.

“We did a lot of good things; we just gave up too many big plays. That’s really been our Achilles in our losses is giving up those big plays. But I give them a lot of the credit – they made the plays, they were making plays, ” Mendon coach Robert Kretschman said. “(Gorzinski) can sling the ball, he just put the ball on the money. They’re physical on the edge. That was probably one of the best perimeter blocking teams I’ve seen in a long time, 11-man, 8-man, they get after it. … Their physicality on the edge is something I don’t think we were quite prepared for.”

Mendon had an explosive player of its own in junior back Jack McCaw. He ran for three of the Hornets’ touchdowns, a 30-yarder in the second quarter to get on the board, a 58-yard rush to start the second half and a 70-yard score a few minutes later. Evan Lukeman scored Mendon’s final TD.

“We have Jack coming back. We’re excited about that,” Kretschman said. 

North Central wants to keep its run going next year, but it won’t be easy after losing such a decorated group of seniors headlined by Luke Gorzinski.

Now they can savor all that they’ve done the last three years.

“We came out here to do it again; that was the goal for this season,” Jacob Gorzinski said.

And nobody was able to stop them.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Powers North Central’s Lane Gorzinski (6) and Dylan Plunger (10) celebrate an early touchdown Saturday at the Superior Dome. (Middle) Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) bursts into an opening. (Below) The Jets line up on offense, led by quarterback Luke Gorzinski. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)

Moore Finishes Legendary King Career by Leading Crusaders to D3 Repeat

By Scott DeCamp
Special for MHSAA.com

November 27, 2022

DETROIT – Dante Moore had no tears left to cry Saturday night, even happy tears, after he played his final high school football game for Detroit Martin Luther King at Ford Field.

“Everybody sees I’m not crying – I really cried before I got here to the game. Before I walked to the gate, I was crying and I cried last night,” Moore said.

King’s four-year starting quarterback cemented his legacy, leading the Crusaders to their second-straight MHSAA Division 3 championship with a 56-27 victory over Muskegon.

The Oregon commit finished 21-of-26 passing for 275 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions to power King (10-3) to its sixth Finals title overall and fifth in eight years.

Before Moore even took the field for his first offensive series against Muskegon (11-3), junior Jameel Croft Jr. staked King to an immediate lead with an electrifying 96-yard return of the game’s opening kickoff.

The Crusaders never looked back.

“I wasn’t expecting that. I just followed my blocks. Guys were blocking for me and the coaches set it up perfectly for me, for real,” Croft said. “It gave us a lot of momentum in the beginning of the game. It helped us out a lot.”

Crusaders quarterback Dante Moore rolls out looking for a receiver. Muskegon pulled within 14-7 midway through the first quarter and 21-14 three minutes into the second, but Moore & Co. always seemed to have an answer.

Croft scored the game’s first two TDs, as he added a 13-yard scoring catch from Moore to make it 14-0 with 6:28 left in the first quarter.

“We started out chasing. We gave up that opening kickoff for a touchdown and we just got ourselves chasing and kind of things went from there,” said Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield, whose team trailed 35-14 at halftime and pulled within 14 with five minutes left in the third but got no closer.

Croft was Moore’s top pass-catcher, finishing with six receptions for 64 yards and two TDs. Senior Sterling Anderson Jr. was a blur as King’s top rusher, totaling 207 yards on only 13 carries, highlighted by his 80-yard scoring sprint that gave the Crusaders a 49-27 lead with 10:55 remaining.

Seniors Samuel Washington and Tim Ruffin paced King defensively with nine and eight tackles, respectively. For Muskegon, senior Julian Neely registered a team-high seven stops, while junior Stanley Cunningham recorded two sacks among his six tackles.

Muskegon junior quarterback M’Khi Guy ran 20 times for 135 yards with two TDs, including a 60-yard breakaway to pull the Big Reds within 14-7 midway through the first quarter. He also completed 2-of-4 passes for 97 yards, including a 71-yard scoring strike to junior Destin Piggee.

Muskegon junior Jakob Price added 93 rushing yards and a TD on 17 carries, but the night belonged to King and Moore.

“There’s no excuse: That kid is amazing. He threw balls that we haven’t seen probably in my career,” said Fairfield, whose program was seeking its first Finals title since 2017. His Big Reds teams have been to the Finals to finish eight of his 13 seasons at the helm.

“Only one other guy threw touchdown passes like (Moore) and passes and balls like that in my career here, and that was (Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice’s) Alex Malzone – went to Michigan. Seems like we always see the (Dequan) Finns and the Dantes and Malzones and stuff when we get here, but you know, we’re here,” added Fairfield, whose 2018 squad lost to Finn and King, 41-25, in the Division 3 championship game.

King coach Tyrone Spencer said that his team overcame a lot of adversity this season. The Crusaders could not practice on their field because it’s undergoing a makeover, so they bussed to practice. They lost their season opener to Warren Central (Ind.), 44-26, and dropped the final two games of the regular season to Detroit Cass Tech (28-14) and Cincinnati Moeller (30-14).

King’s Sterling Anderson Jr. (3) follows his blockers through a sizable opening.The Crusaders got it going in the playoffs, however. They threatened the Finals record for points by one team, established Friday night by Grand Rapids West Catholic with 59.

“(The season) was up and down, but the kids, I mean, they trust us and we got it back going,” Spencer said. “They’re a resilient group of kids. It speaks to their character.”

Moore mentioned the “championship culture” at King, how one expects to be a champion once he puts on that jersey.

It’s also about giving back and respecting the game, too, which has been a custom of Moore’s since his freshman year when King lost to Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 Final, 35-26.

“My freshman year, me playing against Brady Rose and Muskegon Mona Shores, I remember Brady Rose pulled me to the side and that’s where I really got it from – him taking me to the side, telling me things I can work on, and me congratulating him for what he’s done and being one of the best players to come through Michigan to be honest and leading his team on his back,” Moore recalled.

“I just knew that I had to carry that on through this past year and really pull the (opposing) quarterbacks to the side, especially (those) younger than me. Me being a senior, I’ve been through a lot. I just want to give them the keys and terms to help them be the best they can be in high school.”

Croft called the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Moore a “great leader,” who is “so poised” and one who will leave “a great legacy right here for sure.”

“Special, man,” is how Spencer reflected on Moore’s four-year run.

“You know, he’ll be the one that they’ll talk about maybe the greatest we’ve ever had here,” Spencer said. “Just really proud of him and the person that he is. He deserves it. He works hard for it, and I just couldn’t be more pleased. It couldn’t happen to a better person.”

Meanwhile, Muskegon got off to a bit of a slow start this season by Big Reds standards. They lost two of their first five games, including a 49-16 road defeat to eventual Division 2 champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate, but got healthy and played their best football at the right time leading up to Saturday night.

Fairfield said the Big Reds battled and left it all on the field.

“They played 14 and when you play 14 games, of course this is going to hurt more because it’s the very last one and now you’ve got 364 days to get back,” he said.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Detroit King’s Samuel Washington (10) wraps up Muskegon’s M’Khi Guy during Saturday’s night’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Crusaders quarterback Dante Moore rolls out looking for a receiver. (Below) King’s Sterling Anderson Jr. (3) follows his blockers through a sizable opening.