IRON MOUNTAIN - The Mountaineers this week received high praise for their show of sportsmanship against Ishpeming Friday night, when the team allowed Hematite senior kicker Eric Dompierre attempt two extra-point attempts without a rush.
Dompierre, a 19-year old with Down syndrome who was granted a waiver to play one more year despite being beyond the Michigan High School Athletic Association's age limit, entered last week's contest after halftime.
Leading the list of those chiming in with accolades for the Black and Gold was Iron Mountain alum Steve Mariucci.
"I'm very proud of how our Mountaineers handled themselves during their football game vs Ishpeming last week," Mariucci, an NFL Network analyst and former NFL coach, wrote in an e-mail to school staff. "The display of sportsmanship and respect shown by the players and coaches in a high school football game, regardless of the score, expresses to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, that they made the right decision in allowing Eric Dompierre to participate in athletics in his senior year for the Hematites.
"His presence on the field, or on the court, will be a constant reminder to all athletes, coaches, parents, faculty and students of what high school sports is really all about. In a healthy rival game between Iron Mountain and Ishpeming, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, so much was displayed, so much will be remembered. Great job everybody! I'm proud to be your native son."
Dompierre's father, Dean, who tirelessly worked with the Ishpeming school district for well over a year to convince the MHSAA to create the waiver process, also wrote to the team.
"I just wanted to send you a quick note to express the appreciation of my wife and I for the selfless acts that you and your team demonstrated during last night's game," he wrote. "These kinds of experiences were what we were fighting for throughout our struggle with the MHSAA leadership ... although you guys didn't come out with a win, the character that your team showed I'm sure convinced a lot of people that the young athletes in both communities deserve our respect and our praise. Throughout the game they demonstrated both the guts and the sportsmanship that high school sports is all about."
Another note came in from Ishpeming assistant coach Scott Syrjala, saying in part, "The Mountaineers displayed the class act they have always been ... it is because of programs like yours that see even a bigger picture and allowed him to attempt his kicks, that will make memories of a life time for a father and son. In my 12 years at Ishpeming, I also saw possibly one of the greatest acts of sportsmanship I have ever seen: Your Mountaineers, being down in a hard fought game, still found it in themselves when Eric walked on to the field, to cheer and clap for him ... Our respect for you has always been great. However, tonight it grew even more."