By Keith Shelton
For The Daily News
ESCANABA - The Escanaba Eskymos struck quick and often Friday night, mostly out of necessity, but it worked like a charm. Making the most out of their few first-half opportunities, the Eskymos racked up the big plays, routing Iron Mountain 42-14 for their first home victory of the season.
Paul Gerard Photo
Iron Mountain’s Paul Brooks breaks loose for a run in the second quarter against Escanaba. He ran for 166 yards.
That the victory came on homecoming, made it even sweeter.
"I'm most happy for my seniors. They have a home win now and it came on homecoming," said Eskymos head coach Jim Hansen, who was victorious for the first time in his head coaching career at home.
It was certainly a tale of two halves, as the Mountaineers came out with a game plan and stuck to it. It was called, keep the ball out of Eskymos quarterback Dave Falish's hands.
Dominating the time of possession, it nearly worked for the Mountaineers. After forcing a three-and-out on Escanaba's opening possession, Iron Mountain embarked on a marathon drive of over 10 minutes, mostly handing off to workhorse fullback Paul Brooks. The five-foot-nine, 195 pound back with a low center of gravity was never really a big play threat, but ate up chunks of yards and clock.
With 40 seconds remaining in the half, Mountaineers quarterback Gerry Pirkola punched it in from two-yards out.
"I give a lot of credit to Iron Mountain," said Hansen. "They played hard and they have good players who did a nice job moving the chains."
When Brooks needed a break, the Mountaineers handed off to Taylor Huotari, who was also good for three yards here, a cloud of dust there.
Brooks carried 32 times for 166 yards and a touchdown.
When the Eskymos finally got the ball back for just their second possession, it only took them just under two minutes to score. After a series of runs by Dave Falish, Trevan Wendrick powered into the end zone. After a TJ Myrick kick, the Eskymos trailed 8-7.
With possession once more, the Mountaineers went back to work sucking up clock and embarked on another scoring drive, eating seven-and-a-half minutes off the clock, before Brooks trudged through to the end zone.
But once again, the Eskymos offense went into quick strike mode and 67 seconds later it was Jake Walker scoring his first varsity touchdown.
The Eskymos weren't done in the half however, even after tying up the score 14-14.
A big fumble recovery on the Mountaineers next possession gave Escanaba the ball on Iron Mountain's 46-yard line with 82 seconds remaining in the half. The Eskymos only needed 12. Falish kept it himself and blasted off the length of the field giving Escanaba a 21-14 lead.
Though Iron Mountain controlled the ball for nearly 21 of the game's first 24 minutes, they now had little to show for it.
"Our game plan was to stop No. 40 (Falish). He's their best player and we had no answer for him," said Mountaineers head coach Robin Marttila. "The game plan was to possess the ball and for the first 20 minutes, we followed the script, but a couple turnovers cost us."
Iron Mountain looked like a different team upon coming out in the second half. Though only down by a touchdown, the Mountaineers came out throwing. That led to a pick on Iron Mountain's third play by Falish, who three plays later, punched it in from the 1-yard line.
"That pick was a terrible call on my part. We wanted to work on some things," said Marttila. "Offense wasn't the problem though. Defensively we had no answer for Falish."
Marttila wanted to keep the ball away from Falish so badly, the Mountaineers went for it on virtually every fourth down attempt. They converted the short ones, but when faced with fourth and long, fake-punt trickery and halfback pass attempts didn't work.
"We had to possess the ball," said Marttila. "We couldn't give it to No. 40."
Falish led the way with 20 carries for 189 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Walker scored again in the second half for his first two rushing touchdowns of the season.
Escanaba (4-4) wraps up the regular season Friday as they host Kingsford (7-1) with a possible postseason berth on the line. Iron Mountain (4-4) heads to Norway (3-5) very much in the same boat.
IRON MTN. 8 6 0 0 - 14
ESCANABA 0 21 14 7 - 42
IM - Gerry Pirkola, 2-yard run, 2pt run, 0:41
E - Trevan Wendrick, 4-yard run, Myrick kick, 10:49
IM - Paul Brooks, 2-yard run, 2pt pass failed, 3:29
E - Jacob Walker, 15-yard run, Myrick kick, 2:23
E - Dave Falish, 46-yard run, Myrick kick, 1:10
E - Falish, 1-yard run, Myrick kick, 10:02
E - Walker, 7-yard run, Myrick kick, 1:21
E - Falish, 1-yard run, Myrick kick, 4:33
Iron Mountain - 242 (209 rushing, 33 passing); Escanaba - 295 (262 rushing, 33 passing)
Iron Mountain - Brooks (32-166); Huotari (8-16); Pirkola (7-0); Gerhard (4-22); Menza (3-5).
Escanaba - Falish (20-189); Beversluis (1-6); Wendrick (3-22); Kleiman (1-18); Walker (5-23); Heller (1-4).
Iron Mountain - Pirkola (5-12-1-33); Escanaba - Falish (1-2-0-33)
IM - Brooks (3-18); Huotari (2-15); E - Wendrick (1-33)