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Football: Ishpeming seizes control of West PAC B with win over West Iron County

West Iron County running back Zach Quintero, left, rushes against Ishpeming defender Hunter Smith on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Iron River, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

IRON RIVER — The West PAC B division is now Ishpeming’s to lose.

The Hematites (7-0, 5-0) outlasted West Iron County in a 14-0 heavyweight bout Saturday at Nelson Field.

Ishpeming overcame three lost fumbles in the first half to carve out the narrow win and take sole possession of the smaller West PAC division.

Although Ishpeming outgained West Iron (5-2, 4-1) offensively by a 258-yard margin, the Hematites managed just one score in each half despite averaging 43 points a game leading up to Saturday.

The Hematites, as they have all season, controlled the line of scrimmage. Ishpeming had 19 first downs to West Iron’s five.

“I like the fact that we never punted. We were able to get drives and then made mistakes,” Ishpeming head coach Jeff Olson said. “I loved our second half where we just went in between the tackles running and controlling the football, controlled the clock and gained yards.”

Ishpeming had 315 yards of offense with 259 rushing and 56 passing.

The Wykons’ offense had 57 yards of offense including 33 rushing yards on 23 carries (1.4 yards per carry). West Iron had 24 yards passing.

The Wykons faced five third-downs with at least 10 yards to gain. West Iron was 1 of 9 on third downs and punted seven times.

“We collapsed a little bit on some third and fourth down plays, not bad,” West Iron County head coach Mike Berutti said. “But against this team you have to play perfect. We didn’t.”

Noah Lewis led West Iron’s rushers with 30 yards on five carries.

Penalties hindered West Iron more than Ishpeming because of the Wykons’ lack of success on offense. A few West Iron drives gained momentum but fizzled because of penalties.

At the start of the fourth quarter, a penalty set the Wykons up for a third-and-28. Penalties on the next two plays put the Wykons at fourth-and-28 and then fourth-and-43 from their own 25. Down two scores at that point, it put the fourth quarter in Ishpeming’s hands. As a result the Hematites controlled the ball for over half the quarter with seven minutes, 40 seconds of possession.

The Wykons were penalized six times for 64 yards while Ishpeming was penalized six times for 75 yards.

“Offensively, we get a couple things going and we’d get a hold, the next play a chop block, the next play one back goes the wrong way and all of a sudden we get an intentional grounding play,” Berutti said. “We can’t overcome those things. We just don’t have the team speed, but I like some of the things we did out of the shotgun look and moved the ball. We’re going to get better at that. We’re going to have to maybe implement more of that kind of stuff.”

For Ishpeming, Gavin Sundberg’s two rushing scores accounted for all it needed. Sundberg scored from a yard out with 2:04 left in the first quarter. In the third, he scored from four yards out.

Defense kept West Iron in the game. The Wykons conceded 259 rushing yards, but shut down drives to force a turnover on downs. The Hematites never punted but were stopped on two of their four fourth-down conversion attempts.

Despite Ishpeming producing nearly five times the amount of yards and first downs as West Iron, the Wykons’ defense bent but didn’t break.

West Iron recovered three first-half fumbles on drives in which the Hematites marched down the field. All the fumbles were recovered on the Wykons’ half of the field.

The couple stops and three takeaways helped West Iron keep Ishpeming’s offense off the field. But West Iron’s lack of offensive output meant Ishpeming held onto momentum.

“I thought our run defense was pretty good. Overall defense we played a great game,” Olson said. “When you have those sudden changes, things can snowball against you. Those are things you worry about as coaches, when you give up those fumbles, maybe they get a short field, they get the momentum. We were able to stop that momentum each time. That’s the sign of a good football team.”

Berutti said he liked the physicality of his team throughout the game.

“I thought we did a great job getting to the football and stripping the ball,” Berutti said. “One for sure was a strip and the others we just popped those guys. That just shows we were hitting guys.

“I want to stress how I liked how our kids came out to play football,” Berutti added. “They didn’t roll over and they didn’t shy away. We got punched in the teeth and we didn’t back down. We started punching back. That was something we wanted to see out of this group of guys. Now we got to take that next step.”

The battle for the West PAC B title has kept Ishpeming hungry after already qualifying for the playoffs.

“You have goals and you set goals,” Olson said. “We accomplished one of them getting to the playoffs, we want to win the conference and we want to go far in the playoffs. If you set your sights on those goals that you haven’t accomplished yet, that’s what we’re working for. You can’t rest on your laurels. Qualifying for the playoffs isn’t good enough. We gotta stay focused, keep working hard and we gotta be humble.”

West Iron County will look to qualify for the playoffs next week at Gwinn.

Ishpeming 8 0 6 0 — 14

West Iron 0 0 0 0 — 0

First Quarter

I — Sundberg 1 run (2-pt conversion), 2:04

Third Quarter

I — Sundberg 4 run (2-pt failed), 2:27

First downs — WIC 5, ISH 19

Total yards — WIC 57, ISH 315

Rushes-yards — WIC 23-33, ISH 51-259

Passing — WIC 24, ISH 56

Total plays — WIC 37, ISH 58

Comp-Att-Int — WIC 3-9-1, ISH 2-3-0

Punts — WIC 7, ISH 0

Fumbles-lost — WIC 0-0, ISH 3-3

Penalties-Yards — WIC 6-64, ISH 6-75

Third down — WIC 1-9, ISH 2-7

Fourth down — WIC 0-0, ISH 2-4

Individual Statistics

RUSHING — West Iron County: Lewis 5-30, Quintero 6-22, Thomson 4-5, Bociek 3-minus 1. Ishpeming: Sundberg 33-135, Smith 10-81, Trawick 6-37, Jandreau 2-6.

RECEIVING — West Iron County: Pellizzer 2-19, Lewis 1-5. Ishpeming: Smith 1-46, Kruhlik 1-10.

PASSING (att.-comp.-TDs-Int) — West Iron County: Bociek 3-9-24-0-1. Ishpeming: Gavin Sundberg 2-3-56-0-0.

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