IRON RIVER—During its scrimmage with Forest Park Aug. 23, West Iron coaches spotted five mistakes—things like false starts or motion penalties.
That means five “hills.” Instead of running laps for mistakes, everybody does hills: They run from the Nelson Field track up to the top of the terraced hill just north of the grandstand and back down again. “Five hills” means five round trips.
“But since you played good,” Wykons Coach Mike Berutti added. “I’m only going to make you do three.” Awww, what a guy!
Scrimmage time means pre-season is nearly over, and now it’s less than a week. This Friday, Aug. 30, the Wykons head to Munising, while Forest Park goes to Bark River-Harris.
Last Friday, it was about seeing how your guys do against another team. In general, both Berutti and Trojans Coach Bill Santilli sounded mostly pleased by what they saw.
Berutti said both defenses seemed to have a leg up on the offense. Of 30 Forest Park plays (two sets of 15), Berutti said he saw just one poor play “where we missed two tackles and they picked up about 11, 12 yards.”
On offense, the Wykons had to deal with Trojan blitzes. “When we went straight at them, I thought we came off the football and made some nice gains, picking up 4, 5, 6 yards a carry.”
A special focus was interior linemen—WIC will have new starters this year. In our offense, the guards are moving all the time. I just want to see who can block, who can tackle, who can find the football, who has some toughness.”
As the morning went on, “I thought we got better on the inside throughout the day—right what we wanted to see.”
The Wykons’ main players will be Andrew Peterson (QB, OLB), Joey Pisoni (TE, DB), Ryan Rogers (RB, DB), Bryson Heimerl and Andy Ridolphi (linemen), Ron Varney and Chasz Jonet (FP, LB, D-line). “We got a lot of returners, some ability at the point of attack, a little size and a little miscle.”
Outside of the speedy Rogers, the backfield features bigger, stronger players. “They bring a different element. Maybe they won’t rip off a 50 or 60-yarder, but you’re going to be able lower your pads and pick up your 5, 6 yards.
When the “twos” (reserves) got into the game, West Iron struggled, especially its defense, which got gashed repeatedly on long plays. Simple story: Because of roster size, FP has to keep many of its “ones” on the field. “We struggled,” Berutti said, “but I kind of knew we would against their starters.”
FP Coach Santilli said the scrimmage went a better than expected, considering the Trojans can’t go 11-on-11 in practice. “We’ve always been going half line on half line. So we didn’t know what to expect.”
After studying video, “We are probably right at where we’ve always been.” Athleticism is never a problem, but the players have to work on fine details: how high the line plays, finishing tackles, going to the right place, holding blocks long enough. Both teams will be better with more work, Santilli said.
“We played fairly well defensively, and we were able to move the ball on the ground. With a very young offensive line (just one returning letterman), I was satisfied.
“I’m not going to say we are off to a great start, but we saw things we can improve on. It was a good scrimmage. A good solid B-minus.”
Lee Graff, expected to be FP’s fullback and middle linebacker, sat it out due to a sore back. Nobody got hurt at Nelson Field; everyone should be ready to go at Bark River this Friday.
FP’s offense will center on tailback Austin Snell and quarterback Jeff Johnson. “Between them,” Coach Santilli remarked, “we need to have them show up with their A game every week or we’re going to be in trouble.”
On defense, pass coverage is a concern once again. To counter that, pressure on the quarterback will be a top priority—along with stopping the run.
An update on the roster: The Trojans will have five sophomores and one freshmen on the varsity this year. “They’re all on the field,” said Santilli, “and we have to rely on them.” They join nine seniors (one hurt) and four juniors.
The JV team had 15 at the scrimmage, with hopes of adding another player this week.
• As it turns out, the Trojan and Wykon JV teams will meet again this year--on Sept. 19 back at Nelson Field.
Originally, West Iron was to face Ironwood that week, and the Trojan JVs had an open week—the varsity plays Ontonagon on Sept. 20.
But due to numbers, Ironwood won’t field a JV team this fall. When Wykons Coach/AD Berutti looked around for another opponent for his JVs, he didn’t have to look very far.