BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — The T-shirts sold for the inaugural Patriot Game were emblazoned with "Never Forget" on the back.
Friday's game is one Traverse City Central players won't soon forget.
"It's a gigantic win," Trojans quarterback T.J. Schepperly said of the 42-28 victory. "That puts us at 5-1. One more gets us right in the playoffs. Hopefully that comes next week. Then two more after that hopefully puts us at 8-1 and gives us the conference title."
Central also seizes control of the Big North Conference race, sitting on top of the league standings as the only remaining team undefeated in conference play.
"First team since the split of Central to go 5-1, so it's big," said running back Ethan Campbell.
CENTRAL THEME: The Trojans used West's game plan against the Titans.
In previous seasons West typically tried to use its Wing-T to power the ball down the field, even if it had a solid passing attack. This year, Central made it a point to take that away.
Even before West running back Griffin Forrester sustained an injury, West's run game stalled.
"We said we have to hit hard, and that's what we did," Central sophomore defensive end Rhys Adle said. "We came out and hit hard. They came out and ran some (wing) T and we hit them hard. That was the key."
"They had some sophomores making some big-time plays for them," Wooer said. "They have a bright future over there."
Central held West to 50 yards rushing and an average of just 1.8 yards a carry. The Titans had 38 yards on the ground in the first half and only 12 in the second half as they went to the air frequently to try to catch up.
"The last four weeks, even though we won big, there were some question marks in everybody's minds — coaches, players and even the fans," Passinault said. "We talked to the kids this week about showing our community that we're a good football team. When we found out Nate Pupel wasn't going to play, we were down a little bit, because he's a leader of our defense.
"We've been really working the last six years to build our program," Passinault said. "Respect to West, because they're our measuring stick. They've won a lot of games and a lot of games in this series. To do what we did (Friday) and keep battling back after they kept scoring was a real credit to our kids."
Central has now won five of 16 matchups with their main rivals, including three of the last five.
The Trojans host Detroit Jesuit next Saturday at 2 p.m. The Cubs (2-4) are coming off a 42-6 loss to Detroit Catholic Central.
WHERE TO FOR WEST?: Friday's result resulted in a lot of teary eyes, but it's not the end of the world for TC West.
At 4-2, the Titans are still in good position to make the playoffs.
"We had been very good throughout the season taking care of the ball, limiting turnovers and penalties," Wooer said. "You do this long enough, and you realize 15, 16, 17-year-old kids are going to have a bad game once in awhile."
The Titans actually had more total offense (447 to 362) than Central and more first downs (23 to 16).
"We just have to look at what we did wrong and come back and try to fix our mistakes," said West linebacker Derrick Diver, who had 11 tackles.
The category in which Central dominated was rushing yards, owning a 195-50 advantage. West's run game was set back when Griffin Forrester left the game with an injury after only six carries.
"The first quarter, we couldn't get anything going," Diver said. "We came out a little flat."
"We've got to get better up front," Wooer said. "I knew Central's front seven was very physical. And they were more physical than we were. If we limited our turnovers and mistakes, even as bad as the game was, we climb back into it. It was 28-21 with 10 minutes left."
The Titans (3-1 in BNC play) have games left at Petoskey (4-2) and home against Ogemaw Heights (3-3) and Adrian (2-4).
"We'll come back," Wooer said. "There's a lot of season left. We've got four wins and we'd like to get to seven and see where we go from there.
"We've got great leaders. I'm sad for them. There was a lot of tears in the locker room. I think they're a very deserving group. ... There's no doubt we'll regroup."
RECORD BOOK: A slew of Central-West game records were broken in this year's offensive show.
- Campbell's first-quarter 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the longest in series history.
- Schepperly's 60-yard touchdown run is the longest TD run and the fourth-longest run overall.
- Zach Egbert's 48-yard punt tied him for fourth in that category. Egbert was filling in as Central's punter for injured Nate Pupel.
- West's 454 yards of total offense was the most in series history, topping the Trojans' 2010 total by one yard. Central's 362 is eighth.
- The Titans' 390 net yards passing beat Central's 2001 record of 350.
- West's 23 first down are the most in game history, eclipsing Central's 2010 mark.
- West quarterback Donny Cizek entered the record book in five different categories. He established new series marks in completions (27), attempts (41) and yards (390) and tied marks for touchdown passes (three) and interceptions (two). Schepperly also tied the INT mark with two.
- Grant Balino's two touchdown receptions adds him to the list of five other players with two in a game.
- Georden Carter's eight receptions is the new standard in series history. Tyler Johnson's six grabs tied the old mark that was help by three players.
- Zach McGuire's 111 receiving yards puts him third on the list, and Carter's 101 is fourth.
TURF TIDBITS: TC West used Oregon-style large play cards to help call in signals to the offense from the sidelines. ... The Patriot Game ceremony prior to Friday's contest featured 48 veterans holding up flags near the 50-yard line, and 50 students stretching out a giant United States flag as the names of 13 area casualties from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. A Coast Guard crew raised the U.S. flag at the stadium and then lowered it to half mast. West and Central players then walked onto the field and shook hands with the veterans before and during the national anthem.