Somewhere in the big pile, West Iron QB Andrew Peterson crosses the goal line from a yard out, giving the Wykons their first lead over Ironwood late in the third quarter.
IRON RIVER—There is no faster way to exit the football playoffs than with turnovers. West Iron County turned over the ball three times in the first half against Ironwood Oct. 28—but somehow lived to tell about it.
After trailing 15-6 at halftime, the Wykons cleaned up their game and rallied to win their Division 7 district semifinal game 26-22. They will host Ishpeming this Saturday, Nov. 5, in the district title game.
“You’ve got to protect the football,” Coach Mike Berutti warned later. “That’s No. 1. If that happens again next weekend, it’s not going to be the same result.”
The first fumble was only two plays into the game, but the Wykon offense was soon on the move, helped by QB Andrew Peterson’s 38-yard pass to Caleb Pellizzer and Devon Marcell’s 14-yard dash. First down at the Ironwood 11.
But WIC didn’t get inside the 5, and the Red Devils got the ball back on downs. That’s another don’t: Don’t come away empty when you get in the opponent’s red zone.
Later, Jamie Newby ran for 18 yards around the left side, but the ball came loose when he was hit, and Ironwood recovered at the Wykon 44. One play later, Ironwood QB Adam Mackey ran through the left side, cut around a tackler and scored from 44 yards out. Connor Wilson’s kick put the Red Devils ahead 7-0.
West Iron fired back. Chasz Jonet, Tyler Stafford and Marcell took turns running the ball, earning four first downs. Peterson ran in a keeper from the 1, before Stafford was stopped on the conversion. Ironwood still led 7-6 early in the second quarter.
Later, Peterson was intercepted near midfield—WIC’s third turnover—and Ironwood got rolling. A pass interference penalty on fourth down gave them first down at the WIC 28. Mackey ran a keeper for a first down and then passed 16 yards to Wilson for the score. The soph QB added the two-pointer himself, and Ironwood led 15-6 with 20 seconds left till halftime.
That was nearly long enough for the Wykons—Marcell ran back the kickoff 54 yards to the Ironwood 36, and Peterson passed to Kahree Beaudrie at the 1, but time ran out.
Coaches adjusted their coverage on Mackey at halftime, and they challenged West Iron to get tougher, mentally and physically. “You’re a better football team than this,” Berutti remembered telling them.
They did, and they were. After losing 13 yards on a sack and facing 3rd and 25, Peterson passed to Beaudrie for 48 yards to the Ironwood 28. Jonet ran for 15 and later scored from the 1. Jonet tacked on the two-pointer, cutting Ironwood’s lead to 15-14.
WIC’s defense then forced a three-and-out, and the offense got the ball at Ironwood’s 46. Marcell burst through the middle for 37 yards, to the 9, and Peterson scored on a keeper two plays later. The convert failed, but West Iron had its first lead of the night, 20-15.
Ironwood fought back, covering 65 yards in 10 plays. This time, their surprise weapon was lineman Cody Kurta, who took handoffs and ran effectively—his 16-yard gain gave Ironwood a first down at the WIC 17, and Mackey scored from the 11. Wilson’s kick put Ironwood ahead 22-20 with 9:27 left.
But it didn’t faze the Wykons, who drove 71 yards to go back ahead. Marcell’s 14-yard run and Jonet’s 36-yard dash led to Riley Johnson’s two-yard TD, and the Wykons were back in front 26-22 with 6:27 left.
Ironwood attacked again. Mackey ran for a first down on 4th and 7, then passed 19 yards to Matt Weber—first down at the Wykon 30. Kurta banged his way to the 21 on first down.
But the Red Devils lost three on second down, and Mackey’s third down pass was incomplete. On 4th and 3 at the 23. Mackey tried rounding the right side again. But the Wykons were right there and tackled him at the 21 with 50 seconds left.
Two kneeldowns later, West Iron had its win.
West Iron finished with 374 total yards (39 for 237 rushing) to Ironwood’s 256 (41 for 207 rushing) and a 13-11 edge in first downs. Mackey had 103 yards rushing, 44 on the first quarter TD.
Peterson completed 5 of 8 passes for 137 yards with one pick. Beaudrie caught two for 84 yards, Pellizzer, 1 for 43; and Jonet and Marcell one catch each. Marcell led the ground game with 15 rushes for 102 yards. Jonet ran 11 for 91, and Stafford, 7 for 39.
On defense, Marcell led with 11 tackles and one assist. Zach Mann had six, and Cody Desjardins had five. No turnovers or sacks for West Iron.
Berutti said his team covered Ironwood’s option much better than in their Week 4 game—outside of the 44-yard TD, when one defender went the wrong way.
Meanwhile, the offense did things right. “The line blocked extremely well, and they were sending the house at us every play. That’s the only way they were going to stop us. We picked up blitzes for the most part.”
• The Wykons play Ishpeming for the district title this Saturday, Nov. 5, at 1 p.m. at Nelson Field.
West Iron last played the Hematites in the 2008 playoffs, winning 26-22 in the district semifinals on their way to the regional title game. Before that, the teams hadn’t met since the 1989 regular season.
“They’re stingy on defense,” Berutti said, “and they get to the ball real well. On offense, they’re going to run the ball most of the time and just play smashmouth.”
Red Devils 7 8 0 7 -- 22
Wykons 0 6 14 6 -- 26