Football: IM set to host Gremlins in first-ever matchup

It’s a matchup that’s never happened.

That’ll change Friday.

Iron Mountain hosts Houghton in its home opener for the first-ever football game between the schools.

So it’s not surprising that there’s not much Mountaineers head coach Robin Marttila deduced about the Gremlins after just two weeks to the season. And the Gremlins’ roster lists neither heights nor weights.

“Houghton is a brand new opponent that we haven’t played in, it might be never,” Marttila said. “I know my dad is a graduate of 1965 and he has no memory of it. It’s a new schedule. This is a new team, one of five new teams we haven’t played in a very long time.”

Iron Mountain’s changing conferences opened up the opportunity for this matchup after Iron Mountain competed in the Mid-Peninsula Conference.

Both teams already have a common opponent in Westwood. The common denominator in both games was the way the Patriots dominated both schools. Westwood blanked the Gremlins 42-0 before shutting down Iron Mountain last week 34-7.

Marttila said his team has to improve ball control this week.

“Week 2 was a humbling experience. We made some mistakes,” Marttila said. “Westwood is a good football team. We move on to week 3. We want to take care of the ball, try to minimize our turnovers. We want to be a little more physical in some areas. We want to play more physical on both sides of the ball.”

Marttila said Houghton’s I-formation offense looked basic in terms of the kinds of plays the Gremlins ran — nothing he hasn’t seen from other teams out of the I.

“The quarterback looks to be a threat on offense. He gets out of the pocket well and throws well on the run,” Marttila said. “I think they have some good size. It’ll be a learning process, there’s no doubt. They probably don’t know a lot about us either, in terms of what we’ve done in the past. I know we’re looking forward to our home opener Friday night.”

The Mountaineers will also debut a new scoreboard, dedicated in memory to Tom Johnson.

“That was a great endeavor put on by the school system,” Marttila said.

Norway returns to Ishpeming

Two years ago, the Norway Knights won a no holds-barred heavyweight battle at Ishpeming. The 14-0 win came on the throes of heavy physical play.

Knights head coach Bob Madigan expects nothing else when Norway plays the Hematites on Friday.

“I think it’s going to be a really tough, hard fought, hard-hitting game,” Madigan said. “I’m not going to sit here and say who’s going to win. But I will say this: the team that wins, it ain’t going to be easygoing for them because the other team is going to give them a battle.”

Madigan said the Hematites, as usual, look fundamentally sound — and big — on film. But he added his team’s athleticism and overall philosophy may throw a wrench at Ishpeming’s smashmouth plan of attack.

“They have these big huge linemen and they’re going to drive block. We watched the film and we cringed,” Madigan said. “Yet we have nice speed, we have some athletes. It’s really a different type of coaching philosophy. But still based on blocking, hitting, tackling, disciplined football.”

Ishpeming faced a challenging season a year ago, playing with an unusually short roster and canceling a handful of games because of injuries. As a result, Norway ran away in last year’s matchup with a 35-22 win.

But knowing Ishpeming head coach Jeff Olson the way Madigan does, as former JV and freshmen coaches at Marquette in 1990, Madigan said he knows Ishpeming doesn’t stay down for long.

“He’s a good person and runs a good program. Ishpeming’s football is top-notch. They’re well coached and they’re good,” Madigan said. “I’d say we have stepped up in the last few years and matched them. We are competitive here now. I think Friday night’s game, there’s a lot of talk coming out of Ishpeming and Marquette County. A lot of people are saying Ishpeming is really, really, really good. We’re going to see and we’re going to have a challenge.”