Caleb Pellizzer stretches his frame to pull in a pass from Andrew Peterson during second quarter action at Nelson Field. The 13-yard completion to the Ishpeming 4 set up West Iron’s first touchdown.
IRON RIVER—All good things must come to an end. West Iron County’s outstanding 2011 football season ended Nov. 5, when the Wykons faced a strong Ishpeming squad in their Division 7 district title game.
By the end of the first quarter, the Hematites led 16-0. By halftime, it was 30-8. And when the teams shook hands after the final horn, Ishpeming had a new trophy and a 44-14 win.
Meanwhile, West Iron closes the books on a 9-2 season. “We had a good year,” said Coach Mike Berutti. “You can’t complain, coming off last year” when the Wykons were 2-7.
“If you had told us in August that we’d be playing for a district title at 9-2, I don’t know if anybody would have believed it. The kids did a great job.”
Ishpeming got in front early. After forcing a Wykon punt, the Hematites scored on their third play, a 45-yard pass from QB Alex Briones to Giuseppe Bertucci. A two-point pass made it 8-0.
“We knew it was coming,” Berutti said, “and it split right between our two guys.”
WIC was playing into a fairly strong wind in the first quarter, and the field seemed tilted Ishpeming’s way--all but three plays were in the Wykons’ half.
West Iron earned one first down in each of its first two possessions and got the ball again at its 35 late in the quarter. But on 3rd and 8, QB Andrew Peterson’s short pass went right to Casey McCullough, who ran it back for six points. Briones ran in the convert, and Ishpeming led 16-0 with 14 seconds left in the quarter.
With the wind now behind them, the Wykon offense made some headway in the second quarter. Stymied on the ground by Ishpeming’s tough line, West Iron went over the top on Peterson’s 44-yard pass to Kahree Beaudrie to the Hematite 22. On 4th and 5, Peterson passed 13 yards to Caleb Pellizzer at the 4, and Chasz Jonet scored from the 3. Tyler Stafford ran in the two-pointer, and the lead was down to 16-8.
The Hematites struck back—especially their offensive line, which made holes so running backs Adam Prisk and Derek Slone could take turns moving the ball downfield. At the Wykon 5, QB Mike Hill faked a handoff up the middle and dashed around the left for the score, making it 22-8.
On 4th and 4 at their 42 a little later, West Iron went for it, but Peterson’s pass went off the receiver’s hands. “I probably should have punted,” Berutti said later. “But we knew we had to be on the attack. You can’t just sit back against them and say ‘We’ll take our chances later.’ You may not get them later.”
Ishpeming took over at the WIC 42 with 2:18 left and scored in six plays. This time Briones, one of their rotating QBs, ran the ball nearly every time and scored from the 5. His pass to McCullough put Ishpeming ahead 30-8 at halftime.
West Iron badly needed a break early in the second half—and got it! Shortly after the kickoff, the ball was long-snapped over Brionas’ head. West Iron’s Riley Johnson scooped up the bouncing ball near midfield and took it express into the end zone. Stafford was stopped on the two-pointer, but the lead was down to 30-14.
Not for long, though. Ishpeming simply resumed its ball control ground game, covering 83 yards in 12 plays. Outside of a three-yard pass, it was all on the ground. Tyrus Millimaki had the long play, a 27-yard run, and later scored from the 3. A pass to McCullough made it 38-14.
Early in the fourth quarter, West Iron finally earned a first down on a 23-yard pass to Pellizzer at the Hematite 21. But two plays later, the wind held up a Peterson pass enough for Millimaki to make an interception. It set up the Hems at the Wykon 42, and they ground downfield to score on Prisk’s six-yard run.
Both teams’ reserves took over for the final 4:47.
Ishpeming had a big advantage in offense, with 372 total yards (55 for 327 rushing) to West Iron’s 246 (23 for 90 rushing) and a 19-9 lead in first downs.
The most any of the Wykon backs could get was Jonet’s eight carries for 37 yards. In the wind, Peterson completed 9 of 22 for 156 yards with two interceptions. Top receivers were Beaudrie (2 for 68), Pellizzer (3 for 54) and Devon Marcell (2 for 30).
Defense leaders were Jamie Newby (seven tackles, one assist), Marcell (6-4) and Jonet (6-1).
“We were always kind of in it because our receivers were so wide open all the time,” Berutti said. “Andrew was a little bit high with the ball on those comeback routes—those were 10, 12-yard pickups every time, and they were going a little high, off our fingertips.
“We were able to get behind them. Our pass protection, I thought, was outstanding.”
Looking ahead, next year’s Wykons should look a lot like this year’s. Many of this year’s top players are underclassmen--many sophomores--and should return for 2012.
The team will lose running back/linebacker Marcell, receiver/DB Pellizzer and some linemen who stepped up their game this season: Jimmy Spicer, Joe Varney, Kiel Atanasoff and Zach Mann.
“We’ve got some young guys waiting in the wings,” Berutti said. “The three coming back on the line are going to be better next year.” Also expected back: “a slew of backs,” Beaudrie at end and Peterson calling signals.
“Andrew, for a sophomore, had a great year, and he’s only going to get better.”
Hematites 16 14 8 6 -- 44
Wykons 0 8 6 0 -- 14