Andrew Peterson has a wall of blue in front of him as he rolls out during first half action against Northland Pines. Closest to the camera are Andy Ridolphi (52), Chasz Jonet, Zane Sarafiny and Mykel Zaritz (51).
IRON RIVER—West Iron’s dream season rolled along Oct. 12. It was Homecoming Saturday, and the Wykons played the inhospitable host, walloping defending champion Northland Pines 39-6 in what was expected to be a close, tense battle for the West Pac Conference title.
It was anything but that. The Wykons scored early, forced four interceptions and stymied the Eagles’ potent offense. West Iron enters this week with a 7-0 record overall, 5-0 in the West Pac.
Any doubters left?
A senior-led squad, the Wykons weren’t about to let all the distractions of Homecoming affect their concentration. They’ve been there before.
“You could feel it,” said Coach Mike Berutti. “We got on the field, and they were focused. That’s a sign of maturity. We’ve got a lot of guys who have been on varsity three years.
“That’s what you should expect from those guys, but you never know when you’re dealing with kids.”
Once the game kicked off, the Wykons quickly took control and forced a punt. On the second play from scrimmage, Alec Schmelebeck broke through the left side for 43 yards and the game’s first points. Wykons, 6-0.
The Eagles earned one first down, but when they tried passing into a stiff breeze from the south, Colton Pangrazzi got in position for an interception at the Wykon 30. Boosted by QB Andrew Peterson’s 20-yard pass to Max Maloney on third down, WIC scored on Peterson’s 15-yard run around the right side. Wykons, 12-0.
That’s how things went. Tylor Capadagli’s one-handed interception near midfield set up West Iron again just before the teams changed ends, and the Wykons’ relentless ground game drove downfield. After Schmelebeck was stopped just short of the goal line, Peterson followed his blockers over for six points. Wykons, 18-0.
Just a little later, Pangrazzi got his second interception of the afternoon, cutting in front of the intended receiver and returning it about 50 yards for another WIC score. Wykons, 24-0.
WIC’s squib kickoff was mishandled, and Capadagli fell on the loose ball. The beleaguered Eagles got it back on downs at their 11 but three plays later had to punt. Brandon Olson caught the ball, faked a reverse and ran it back 63 yards to the NP 2. Jake Polich scored on the next play—Wykons, 32-0.
A little later, Nick Helgemo’s interception (WIC’s fourth of the half) set up the West Iron offense at the Eagles 29. On first down, Peterson rolled right and passed to Chasz Jonet for a 29-yard touchdown. Wykons, 39-0.
The nightmare first half for Northland Pines finally ended. The game was essentially over, too. The entire second half was played under running time, with West Iron’s reserves getting their chance to show their stuff before the boisterous Homecoming crowd.
Only one second half score: Northland Pines ended the shutout on Joe Roach’s 1-yard TD late in the fourth quarter, after a 19-play drive. That was the first TD scored on the Wykons since the last play of the Houghton game Sept. 27.
“Our offensive and defensive lines played extremely well,” said Coach Berutti, who said he especially liked the work of the linebackers and defensive backs.
One key factor was the Wykons pressuring Northland Pines QB Cooper Kerner, who runs and passes the ball well. But West Iron never gave him time to show his skills. “We were opportunistic.”
Going in, Berutti said he had been nervous about the Eagles’ speed, but Sam Lacko, one of Northland Pines’ top backs, injured a wrist the week before. “That hurt them, not having him in the game.”
WIC’s Ron Varney, just back from an ankle injury, hurt a knee, and his status for this week is unclear.
Team stats: WIC, 328 total yards (39-255 rushing, 4-8-73 passing); Northland Pines 191 total yards (35-170 rushing, 3-11-21 passing). First downs: WIC 11, NP 12.
Individual stats: Rushing, Alec Schmelebeck, 8-79; Andrew Peterson, 5-44; Tyler Polich, 8-35. Passing: Peterson, 4-8-73, 1 TD. Receiving, Chasz Jonet, 1-29, TD; Max Maloney, 1-23; Joe Pisoni, 1-11.
Defense (tackles-assists): Jake Polich, 6-2; Peterson, 4-0; Bryson Heimerl, Michael Barker, Mykel Zaritz, all 3-0. Interceptions: Colton Pangrazzi 2, Tylor Capadagli, Nick Helgemo. Sacks: Peterson, Maloney, Zaritz.
• The Wykons move closer to the postseason Oct. 18 when they host Hancock at Nelson Field. The Bulldogs are 3-4 after slipping past Ironwood 28-26 in overtime Oct. 11.
The Hancock game is the final regular season varsity game at Nelson Field—but the Wykons are now virtually certain of playing at least one playoff game at Nelson Field.
Eagles 0 0 0 6 -- 6
Wykons 12 27 0 0 -- 39