By BURT ANGELI
IRON MOUNTAIN - Kingsford ended four years of frustration in five minutes Saturday at Mountaineer Stadium.
Theresa Peterson/The Daily News Photos
Kingsford’s Reed Larson (34) tries to push aside Iron Mountain’s Taylor Huotari (24) Saturday afternoon at Mountaineer Stadium. Below, Kingsford’s Cole Tengesdahl (10) attempts to haul in a reception while defended by Iron Mountain’s Tony Ward. Lower left, Iron Mountain’s Taylor Huotari breaks loose for a 66-yard fourth-quarter run.
The Flivvers stuffed Iron Mountain at the goal line and responded by riding Reed Larson for the decisive fourth-quarter touchdown in posting a 10-0 shutout.
Kingsford halted Iron Mountain's series win streak at four and also wrapped up a postseason berth in the 88th meeting between the Twin City football rivals.
"The kids are happy and I'm happy for the kids," Flivver coach Chris Hofer said. "They practiced really good this week.
"It couldn't happen to a better bunch of guys. I have a lot of respect for them as hard-working kids."
Kingsford, owning a 3-0 lead, stopped the Mountaineers on the one-yard-line with 10:34 left in the game. Five minutes and 91 Larson yards later, the Flivvers sewed up the defensive battle.
"I thought we came out and fought hard for 48 minutes," Mountaineer coach Robin Marttila said. "That's the goal in every game, and I thought we did that today.
"Obviously, we were hoping to win the game and we didn't. Bottom line is we didn't make enough plays to win the game."
After Taylor Huotari covered 66 yards on a run to the Flivver 9, Iron Mountain had four chances from there. The Mountaineers went with workhorse Paul Brooks on all four plays, and came within a half-yard of taking the lead.
On the next series, Larson carried six times for 91 yards including a four-yard dive into the end zone with 5:29 left in the game.
"Big play on the goal line and then stick a 99-yard drive, that was big," Hofer said. "I'm proud of our guys there. We were kind of reeling a bit, but we stepped up and made a play."
Larson rushed for 174 yards on 24 trips Saturday, pushing his season mark to 1,004 along with 13 touchdowns.
"The guy is an animal," Flivver teammate Tyler Kovala said. "We couldn't do it without him. That's the truth."
Larson streaked 47 and 20 yards on two attempts in the fourth-quarter touchdown march.
"Defensively, I thought we did a good job on Reed Larson," said Marttila, whose scrappy Mountaineer defense held the Flivver back to 73 yards for the first 36 minutes. "We were there, had him pinned up at the one-yard line but were not able to stop it.
"That drive was pretty much the game."
Defenses, other than the lone touchdown drive, dominated throughout. Kingsford permitted 176 yards - 161 on the ground from Huotari (6-88) and Brooks (27-73).
"Our backs, Huotari and Brooks, ran hard," Marttila said. "But Kingsford is a good defensive team. We knew that.
"Give Kingsford credit. They're a good physical football team, and they're going to have a good year into the playoffs."
Iron Mountain yielded 230 yards - 56 to anybody not named Larson.
"It was tough sledding for us early and we had a lot of chances to do something," said Hofer, his usually turnover-tough Flivvers tagged with two, and nearly a third, in the first quarter. "We were in position and didn't do it," Hofer said.
"Defensively, I thought we played pretty well the whole game."
Mountaineer lineman Zach Haber recovered a Flivver fumble on the first series and forced another later in the period after belting quarterback Caleb Harrington. Iron Mountain's Matt Willman recovered on the Flivver 20 but that turnover produced nothing.
Kingsford's second series of the game resulted in Gabe Swanson toeing a 27-yard field goal. The Flivvers reached the Mountaineer 12 before the drive stalled.
"It would have been nice to have a little more at halftime," said Hofer, noting the Mountaineers didn't show anything that wasn't expected. "Pretty simple, they gave us the same thing (defensively) they give us every year. No surprises there.
"Our execution was not all that good."
Iron Mountain, with starting quarterback Zach Jacobs unavailable and Gerry Pirkola pressed into duty, got into Kingsford territory three times in the first half. Two penalties, one on fourth down and another for pass interference that nixed a Sean Ryan pass interception, helped the Mountaineers reach the Kingsford 33 in the final 90 seconds.
Pirkola, who acquitted himself well in the start, misfired on his five first-half throws but came back to hit four of six for 58 yards in the second half.
"We didn't change a thing," Hofer said of preparing for a quarterback change. "We didn't know what we were getting. We started our prep early in the week and we stayed with it.
"They (IM) played good football."
Pirkola's 24-yard pitch to Brooks midway through the third quarter put the Mountaineers on the Flivver 32. But Mike Peterson sacked Pirkola two plays later to thwart the drive.
"It was a great defensive game for us," Flivver line standout Hilding Beaudoin said. "We really played well."
Marttila ranked Kingsford as the best team on the Mountaineer schedule.
"I don't have a problem saying that. That's just a fact," Marttila said. "But we fought hard. I thought we played well defensively. We've been a pretty good defensive team at times this year. We just did not get it done today."
On Friday, Kingsford (6-1) hosts Gladstone and hopes to lock up a share of the Great Northern Conference title. Iron Mountain (4-3) travels to Escanaba.
"I'm proud of our team, proud of our kids," Marttila said.
NOTES: Iron Mountain leads the series 45-40-3 ... Poor weather conditions (cold, wet, windy) likely figured in a lackluster $1,045 payout in the game's annual 50-50 drawing. Although the winner, Brad Lesky, wasn't complaining ... Flivver defensive standout Brett Michaud suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week's game with Marquette. "I have nothing but praise for him," Hofer said. "He plays every down, even in practice. He's a tough kid to lose."
Kingsford - 3 0 0 7 - 10
Iron Mountain 0 0 0 0 - 0
K - Gabe Swanson 27 field goal, 2:41.
K - Reed Larson 4 run (Swanson kick), 5:29.
Total offense - Iron Mountain 176 (118 rushing, 58 passing), Kingsford 230 (195 rushing, 35 passing).
Rushing - IM, Huotari 6-88, Brooks 27-73, Pirkola 4-minus 30.
Passing - IM, Pirkola 4-11-0, 58; Kingsford, Harrington 4-9-0, 35.
Receiving - IM, Huotari 2-26, Brooks 1-24, Christiansen 1-8; Kingsford, Qualley 1-6, C. Michaud 1-7, Wienke 2-22.
Penalties - IM 1-10, Kingsford 2-20.