Jets rout Magi, repeat as 8-player state champions

North Central junior quarterback Luke Gorzinski (11) looks to pass against Colon during the MHSAA Division 2 eight-player state championship Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Marquette, Mich. (Matt McCarthy/Iron Mountain Daily News)

MARQUETTE — For the second season in a row — and the second time in the 2021 calendar year — the North Central Jets are MHSAA Division 2 8-Player State Champions as they defeated the Colon Magi 63-0 Saturday afternoon at the Superior Dome in Marquette.

Just moments after the game, Jets coach Leo Gorzinski was still letting it all sink in when asked about what it means to be back-to-back State Champs.

“Say it again, and I’ll tell you,” coach Gorzinski said when asked the question. “It feels great. It’s for the community, for the town, all these players out here and especially our seniors. We are just so fortunate and blessed to have these guys.

“This was a hard-earned season. I know it might have looked easy, but these guys put in the work. They deserve this one.”

The Jets began their offensive onslaught early in the contest with 49 unanswered points scored in the first half alone.

North Central put a stop to the opening Colon drive, forcing a three and out, with a 12-yard sack by Luke Gorzinski, another tackle for loss by a pack of Jets and an incomplete pass before taking over on offense.

“(It felt) pretty great,” said Luke Gorzinski of the game-opening sack. “But, you know what, you don’t see the D-line coming off the ball, lighting up their linemen and leaving me wide open first. That should be half a sack for me because they started it.”

From defense to offense, Gorzinski was all over the place with two scores through the air, one on the ground — a statistical category he led in yards with 124 — and even a receiving touchdown.

He, however, was not the leading passer for the Jets. That was Brent Labonte — who Luke Gorzinski gave kudos to — going 5 for 5 with two touchdowns for 97 yards.

Wyatt Raab — who collected 101 yards rushing — jump-started the scoring for North Central on the first Jets drive of the game with a 15-yard run. He followed that up less than three minutes later with another run, this one from 30 yards out.

Touchdowns from Alex Naser — a 24-yard run — and a 48-yard pass from Brent Labonte to Luke Gorzinski made it 29-0 after the first quarter.

Raab noted, following the game, how it felt to put the first points on the board.

“It obviously feels amazing being the first one on the board. It’s a great feeling knowing you got to get the team rolling in a sense,” Raab said. “So, it felt really good doing it. Lots of people came to follow after that, so it was great.”

Raab also commented on the adversity the Jets fought through this year that fans might not have seen.

“A lot of people had to overcome things this year,” he said. “Jordan Messenger played with a messed up ankle today, Alex Naser came back from what he thought was a fractured knee (and) Luke Gorzinksi, at one point, thought he pulled his hamstring or tore it. So, it’s all about adversity.”

The Jets found the endzone three times in the second quarter on a 40-yard pass from Luke Gorzinski to Naser, a four-yard effort on the ground by Luke Gorzinski and another 33-yard run by Naser.

For Naser — who had 86 yards on three receptions to lead the Jets — it was his second game back from injury, with the state title meaning that much more to the senior after he was unable to attend last season’s championship in January.

“I wasn’t able to be there last year, but being able to be here this year is just outstanding.” Naser said. “I couldn’t have ended it another way with these brothers I’ve made over the last four years.

“When I first hurt my knee and got the news I wouldn’t be able to play the rest of the year, it really bummed me because this is the sport I love. So, after a couple weeks, I felt better and felt I should get a second opinion, and a lot of people agreed with me. So I went up to Marquette, got a second opinion, they cleared me and I was back at practice.”

Another accomplishment tallied by the Jets came from Jaden Walters whose seven extra points set a new MHSAA 8-Player record for the State Championship game.

“I didn’t realize it at first when I made it,” Walters said about setting the record. “Then I was told, and I was just surprised. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

Coach Gorzinski commented that he couldn’t be happier with the team after the game.

“You have no idea (how proud I am),” he said. “But, you’re just so happy for these boys because you know, you’ve been there with them all year long; you’ve watched them go. As coaches, we’re there every single night waiting for this moment. It’d sure be a sick feeling if you didn’t pull it off.

“But, you look into these seniors’ eyes and know that they got it, and they didn’t let anyone down. It’s awesome. Then, you look into the juniors’ and sophomores’ eyes and go, ‘Man, we’re not going anywhere.'”

On the opposite side of the field, the Magi close their season a single win short of a state title.

Down 15-0, Colon had started to build some momentum when the rug was ripped out from under their feet as starting quarterback Simon Vinson left the game with an apparent upper-body injury.

“We had a good gameplan coming in. We knew they were fast at the D-line, and we were young at the O-line. So, we knew we’d have a bit of a struggle there,” Hattan said. “When we lost our quarterback, that kind of took the wind out of our sails. We were starting to move the ball a bit, and then, Simon goes down.

But Powers is a very good football team, very well-coached, very disciplined, big, physical, strong. Nobody expected that we’d get here. So, these kids have exceeded expectations. I’m very proud of these boys.”

Maverick Downs, a sophomore, came into the game for the Magi to fill the shoes at QB.

“He’s a sophomore and hasn’t gotten a ton of reps on varsity. He had some JV games. He came in and made some big throws. We told him, ‘Stay within yourself. Do the things you’re good at. Try not to do too much.’ He had a great experience to come in and play in the game. We’ve told him all year, ‘Hey man, you’re one snap away from being the guy.’ And today he was.”

The Jets wrap up 2021 the way they started it, as state champions. It very well could be the shortest time between state title wins, only 10 months instead of the usual full year, and North Central and Adrian Lenawee Christian have become the only two teams with two state finals wins since the eight-player division split in 2017.


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