IRON RIVER—For most of three quarters Sept. 13, West Iron’s visit to Iron Mountain followed the same tired old script: Going up against a team they had not defeated since (it seems) the last Ice Age, the Wykons were behind 20-3. Same old sad ending?
No. Not this year. The 2013 plot packed some big late surprises—a Brandon Olson punt return for a TD, two long Alec Schmelebeck scoring runs, timely takeaways—and when the curtain came down, the Wykons, their fans and alumni exulted in a scintillating 23-20 win.
It’s their first victory over the Mountaineers since 1990—23 years ago. That was also the last time the Wykons started their season 3-0.
For much of the weekend, Coach Mike Berutti fielded congratulatory phone calls and texts. “Before I even hit the bus,” he said, “there must have been at least 20 texts. A lot of former players and people around town.
“It was an exciting moment.”
Iron Mountain scored first on a 38-yard run by Brock Grenier. Ryan Rogers kicked a 37-yard field goal for the Wykons, cutting IM’s lead to 7-3 after one.
The Mountaineers extended their lead to 13-3 on James Christensen’s 8-yard run late in the second quarter. Berutti said IM used a slow-moving, time-consuming offense in the first half, allowing the Wykons only 16 plays on offense.
Midway through the third quarter, Christensen scored on a 47-yard run, and IM led 20-3. Things looked grim, but the Wykons weren’t giving up.
Schmelebeck helped get the Wykons downfield with runs of 16 and 15 yards. After Rogers gained seven, Schmelebeck got the handoff and scored on a 21-yard run. Rogers’ kick made it 20-10.
West Iron’s defense held and forced a punt seconds into the fourth quarter—right to Olson, who ran it back 74 yards for six points. Rogers’ kick cut IM’s lead to 20-17.
“You could just feel it,” Berutti said. “The excitement—all of a sudden our kids started picking it up.” Olson got some key blocks on his TD return: Tylor Capadagli wiped out one tackler to get Olson through the wall, and Rogers and Nick Helgemo made big blocks later. “Then it was a footrace to the end zone, and Brandon’s got some speed.”
When IM got the ball back, Christensen didn’t return to action. IM’s top back had gotten hurt, and the Mountaineers went three-and-out against the charged-up Wykon defense.
WIC got the ball back at its 23 with about 1:45 left. QB Andrew Peterson passed to Rogers up the sideline for 29 yards to the IM 48. Then, with IM playing deep for the pass, Schmelebeck took the handoff and burst through the right side for a 48-yard score. That gave the Wykons their first lead, 23-20, with 1:45 to play.
Enough time for Iron Mountain to come back, but a third down pass was intercepted by Jake Polich. The Mountaineers forced a punt, but the Wykons downed the ball at the IM 2. On first down, Olson intercepted a Mountaineer pass. One kneel-down later, the game was over. So was the IM jinx.
“Our fans were going crazy,” Berutti said. “Lots of kids jumping around.
“After we scored to make it 20-10 [on Olson’s punt return], our student body really got into it and did an outstanding job.” Students, former Wykon players and families joined the on-field celebration.
“It was great for the kids,” said the coach. “They were so excited to win in that fashion. We could have rolled over and died” after IM took its 20-3 lead. But they didn’t, and now the curse is over.
The Wykons made several key changes on defense in the second half. Michael Barker was inserted at tackle, Jonet was moved to nose guard and Varney shifted to the other tackle. “We had a couple inexperienced guys who don’t normally play defensive line, and those guys stepped up.”
Team stats: WIC 292 total yards (31-194 rushing, 5-11-98 passing). IM 253 total yards (40-209 rushing, 5-9-44-2 passing). First downs: WIC 8, IM 11.
Individual stats: Rushing: Alec Schmelebeck, 14-138; Chasz Jonet, 4-20; Ryan Rogers, 3-14. Passing: Andrew Peterson, 5-11-98. Receiving: Rogers, 3-75; Joe Pisoni, 1-14; Ron Varney, 1-9.
Defense (tackles-assists): Jake Polich, 10-0; Schmelebeck, 9-1; Peterson, 5-1; Jonet, 3-2. Sack: Peterson. Interceptions: Polich, Brandon Olson.
• The big question this week: Will the Wykons get their feet back on the ground in time for their game at Ironwood Sept. 20? The Red Devils are 0-3 after their 29-14 loss to Houghton Sept. 13.
Wykons 3 0 7 13 -- 23
M’tneers 7 6 7 0 -- 20