LAKE LINDEN - One play can often make the difference in a close football game.
Such was the case in Saturday's North Central at Lake Linden-Hubbell clash at Warner Field.
The Lakes had just tied the non-league game at 14-all early in the fourth quarter when they kicked off to NC's Josh Granquist.
Tylor Rickard of Lake Linden-Hubbell makes a tackle on Josh Granquist of North Central Saturday at Warner Field in Lake Linden. (Paul Peterson photo)
Granquist returned the boot all the way to the Lake Linden 36, and the visitors quickly cashed in for the go-ahead score on a 4-yard run by quarterback Rob Granquist.
"The kickoff return was a big play," Jets' coach Kevin Bellefeuil said after his team's 22-14 win. "It was kind of a busted return. They (Lakes) had it shut down, but one of their guys fell down and all of a sudden, Josh (Granquist) got the sideline. That was huge, that was huge."
The outcome lifted NC to 3-0 on the season, while the Lakes slipped to 1-2.
North Central 8 6 0 8 - 22
LL-Hubbell 0 6 0 8 - 14
NC - Travis Vincent 14 pass from Rob Granquist (Devin Wodrazka pass from Granquist)
LL -Tylor Rickord 1 run (pass failed)
NC - Andrew Estrada 25 pass from R. Granquist (run failed)
LL - Tyler Roose 17 run (Cole Beauchamp run)
NC - R. Granquist 4 run (Josh Granquist run)
First downs: NC 7, LL 17; Rushing: NC 24-56; LL 53-236; Passing: NC - R. Granquist 13-23-0-175; LL - Kumpula 4-10-1-75; Ind. Rushing: NC - J. Granquist 19-54; LL - Beauchamp 21-123; Roose 11-55; Rickard 12-36; Walli 5-32; Receiving: NC -Vincent 4-53; Wodrazka 2-31; LL - Roose 2-48, Beauchamp 1-16; Ongie 1-9.
LL-H coach Andy Crouch said his team made too many mistakes to win against a good team.
"Until we stop making those mistakes, we're going to keep having troubles," Crouch said.
The pinpoint passing of Rob Granquist was the major reason that North Central was able to escape from a place Bellefeuil pointed out "is mighty hard to win at."
"He (Granquist) is a really smart quarterback," the Jets coach said. "Sometimes he gets happy feet ... and doesn't plant his feet ... and throws short. But he's really solid most of the time."
For the game, the lanky 6-foot-4 Granquist connected on 13-of-23 passes for 175 yards and two scores.
Crouch said his team was definitely aware of the aerial threat posed by the invaders.
"Granquist hurt us last season (a LL-H win) through the air," Crouch pointed out. "He has a quick release and he throws to the right receivers all the time. He's a difference-maker."
The eventual winners took an 8-0 lead early in the second period when Granquist found tight end Travis Vincent with a 14-yard TD strike. Devin Wodrazka caught the two-point PAT.
The locals answered back later in the quarter when Tylor Rickard plunged in from a yard away to cap a medium length drive. But the all-important PAT pass failed, making for an 8-6 score.
The Lakes threatened late in the half before tailback Cole Beauchamp lost a fumble inside the NC one-yard line on a play he appeared to cross the plane of the goal line on.
The Lakes rolled the dice - and lost - in the third quarter when they went on a 4th down and 3 at their own 28-yard line.
"We had just lost our long snapper (Lucas Klein) to an injury," Crouch said. "We should have been able to get the yardage."
NC stuffed the play at the Lakes 25 and Granquist needed just one play to fire a scoring strike to Andrew Estrada for a 14-6 count.
The never-say-die Lakes answered back early in the final stanza.
Sparked by a couple of passes from quarterback Mitchel Kumpula to Tyler Roose, the Lakes moved down field quickly. They scored on a 17-yard run by Roose and tied it on a PAT run by Beauchamp, the game's top rusher with 123 yards in 21 carries.
But then came telltale kickoff return by the Jets, although the Blue and Gold did threaten in the waning minutes.
An interception by NC's Josh Granquist in the end zone with 2:11 remaining all but sealed it.
Crouch, whose team faces a critical (to its playoff chances) test on Saturday when it hosts the Gogebic Miners, said there's work to do.
"We gave up a lot of big plays, we have to improve in all aspects of the game," the LL-H skipper said. "We have to get better at blocking and tackling, our tackling was terrible. Just fundamental things, but that's on me. I've got to get things squared away."