Football: IM has eyes on L’Anse in bid to make playoffs

Iron Mountain has a chance Friday to qualify for the playoffs.

After enduring a one-win season a year ago, the Mountaineers (5-2) seek a playoff appearance for the first time since 2016. The last time Iron Mountain had missed the playoffs before last year was 2013.

Iron Mountain hosts L’Anse (3-4) at 6 p.m. Friday in its regular season home finale.

“This is what we’ve worked for. Our team and a lot of football teams have a lot invested into the game of football and you want to make the playoffs,” Iron Mountain head coach Robin Marttila said. “We’re in a position where we can control our own destiny playoff-wise. That was one of our team goals from early on.”

Marttila said L’Anse’s offense is a pro set I-formation. The defense is mainly a 5-3.

“L’Anse is going to bring in a scrappy team with talent on both sides of the ball,” Iron Mountain head coach Robin Marttila said. “I’m impressed with their quarterback, Reese Waara. He’s very elusive. He’s very athletic. They run a boot pass that’s pretty good, pretty effective.

“They have decent size up front on both sides of the ball. I wouldn’t say they’re overly big. We need to respect this opponent just like we respect all opponents.”

The Mountaineers have outscored opponents 179-95, an average score of 26-14. L’Anse has been outscored 154-110, an average score of 22-16.

Iron Mountain is coming off a 28-21 win at Hancock in which the Mountaineers faced a 21-7 halftime deficit. Marttila said he’s liked his team’s resiliency this season.

“I like our team for the simple fact we’ve competed on a regular basis,” Marttila said. “We’ve handled adversity pretty well on a regular basis. That’s kudos to our leadership, kudos to our kids. It’s a tough gig sometimes handling adversity. That needs to continue for as long as we play football.”

The Mountaineers’ success this season out of the spread offense has factored in their success. Getting athletes into open space and forcing one-on-one matchups has been an emphasis. But Iron Mountain has also found success in running between the tackles — a philosophy that may become more prevalent as the weather turns wet and cold. Marttila said trusting the team to execute the offense no matter the formations or plays is just as important, though there has been a lot of mind paid lately to the weather and ball security.

“I think the weather definitely has an impact on the game. You look at the beginning of the year to this time of the year, it goes across the board,” Marttila said. “They’ve had more turnovers, more fumbles with the colder weather. That’s something we’ve talked about. You just can’t make mistakes against a quality opponent. Last week we were fortunate to win the turnover battle. We got two interceptions and Hancock had one fumble. This time of year the mistakes and miscues are amplified.”

Overall emphasis in practice has shifted from individual skills earlier in the season to team execution, Marttila said.

“This time of the year we focus a little more on team whereas earlier in the year it was more individual skills,” Marttila said. “Now we’re focused on the team part of it in terms of offensive execution. We’ve gotta snap the ball, catch the ball and hand the ball off and go from there.”

Norway focuses on fundamentals on bye week

Last week was nothing short of a heartbreaker for Norway.

A couple mistakes and a couple big plays by Gwinn to take the lead late turned a Homecoming and Senior Night win into a 26-21 loss for Norway.

With Manistique canceling its season, the Knights pick up a win via forfeit. The Knights are using the week to focus on basics and heal.

“It was a tough game for us but we learned from it, watched our film and studied up,” Norway head coach Bob Madigan said. “We’re working this week on our fundamentals.”

The Knights (4-4) may or may not make the playoffs at five wins, but it depends on a host of circumstances.

Norway closes out the regular season next week at West Iron County in a rematch of last year’s district final — also a heartbreaker for the Knights. The Wykons scored twice in the final four minutes to beat the Knights 20-14 for the district championship on Nov. 3. The win propelled West Iron to the state semifinals. In 2016, the Knights beat West Iron on a last-second touchdown and opted for a two-point conversion for the win.

“We beat them in the last minute and last year they beat us in the last couple minutes,” Madigan said. “I think the two teams match up well. Similar offense, similar defense. We spent a week together at football camp this summer and watched each other five days back and forth. We know each other. We know what’s going to happen. It should be a good game.”