Repeat-Minded North Central Rolling with Playoffs Approaching

By John Vrancic
Special for

October 22, 2021

POWERS — Eighteen and counting.

That’s the number at which North Central’s football winning streak stands after taking a forfeit victory from Gogebic last weekend.

The reigning 8-player Division 2 champion, however, has bigger fish to fry.

“The winning streak is something you don’t focus on,” said junior quarterback Luke Gorzinski, who pulled his hamstring in a 71-6 rout of Ontonagon on Oct. 8 but has returned. “First we have Forest Park, then we have the playoffs. It feels great to be back on the field. It feels like I’m part of the team again.”

The Jets naturally hope to retain their title, but know they must first turn their attention to tonight’s regular-season finale at Crystal Falls Forest Park.

North Central (8-0) finished 10-0 last season after defeating Portland St. Patrick 70-48 in Division 2 Final on Jan. 16.

“We try to look at it as if we hadn’t won a state championship yet,” said senior lineman Lane Nehring. “We don’t want to get too comfortable. We still have Forest Park. We’re not close in distance, but we have a rivalry going. Both of us have good teams.”

What has been the key to North Central’s success on the field?

Powers North Central football“I think it’s our D line play,” said Nehring. “We work together and communicate. Ontonagon’s hook-and-ladder play caught us off guard. They scored on that play, which was bit of a wake-up call for us. Everybody looks at you to be a contender. We definitely have pressure on us to win another one.”

Off the field, coach Leo Gorzinski believes offseason work also has been key to the Jets’ success.

“The kids are invested,” he said. “They bought into the system and know what’s expected of them here at North Central. The interest in our program is there. The kids stay up, which makes it a little easier to keep them focused.

“We have a few people dinged up. We’re very fortunate to have a lot of depth. We have a couple people down who are key players.”

North Central is averaging 63 points per game, and its defense has allowed just 13 points this season. The Jets held Stephenson to minus-seven yards of total offense in a season-opening 46-0 win.

“You feel on top of the world right away,” said Luke Gorzinski. “You also have to be ready to play right away. It’s a good way to open the season, but any team can beat any other team on any given day or night. Stephenson has a good team. You can’t take any team for granted.”

No team is exempt from adversity, and the Jets will verify that.

They lost senior Alex Naser for the season Oct. 8 due to a hairline fracture below his right kneecap.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better year,” he said. “I’m going to stay on the sidelines and help as much as I can. I’ll be giving the guys a few pointers. It’s a little disappointing to not be able to play, but it’s all part of football.”

The Jets are taking this as a reminder of the importance of depth.

“Other guys have been involved in our offense,” said Coach Gorzinski. “They know what they need to do. We may not be as explosive as we were before, but we should still have an efficient offense.”

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTOS (Top) Luke Gorzinski (11) eludes a Portland St. Patrick defender during last season’s Division 2 championship win at Legacy Center in Brighton. (Middle) Wyatt Raab (28), another star of last season’s Final, is again a standout for the Jets.

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.