BARK RIVER--As the final seconds of the Oct. 25 game here ticked away, the Bark River-Harris PA announcer noted the historic moment at 8:16 p.m.—West Iron County had just completed its first undefeated season in school history.
Final score: Wykons 44, Bark River 18. WIC season record: 9-0 overall. No Wykon team, not even the 1977 team that reached the state finals, has ever done that.
With a perfect season behind them, the Wykons start their second season this weekend—the Division 7 playoffs. It lasts up to five weeks. How far can they go? How long can they last?
They will open against Traverse City St. Francis at Nelson Field this Friday, Nov. 1, with a 6 p.m. kickoff.
Their toughest opponents behind them, it was more of a coronation at Bark River than anything else. The Wykons scored on their first four possessions and built up a 42-12 lead by halftime. In the second half, with many of the starters pulled, West Iron put it in cruise control.
It was all business early. Bark River’s first three possessions were “three and out,” ending with short punts. Before you knew it, the Wykons were ahead 21-0.
The first score was a 27-yard drive: QB Andrew Peterson passed to Chasz Jonet for a 13-yard touchdown. The second went 30 yards, with Alec Schmelebeck running it over from the 14. The third covered 50 yards: Nick Helgemo ran it across from 28 yards out. Ryan Rogers’ extra point kicks capped each score.
Bark River managed only 35 yards on offense in the first quarter. Too easy! “We started fast,” Coach Mike Berutti said. “We played well offensively and defensively.”
He paused a half second. “Until the second quarter.”
That’s when the Broncos found their footing and stampeded downfield. They covered 79 yards for their first score on five first downs. Hunter Messersmith’s 25-yard run to the 1 set up QB Jorden Sodergren’s sneak from the 1 for the score. Wykons, 21-6.
The Wykon offense never slowed and needed just four plays to get the points back: Schmelebeck on a 56-yard run through the right side. After the kick, WIC led 28-6.
The Broncos battled back with a 66-yard scoring drive. Facing 3rd and 10 at the Wykon 32, Sodergren connected with Brian Latta down the left sideline for the TD. Wykons, 28-12.
Berutti said Bark River did something unexpected with its unbalanced look. “And I think we lost a little bit of focus. We started going for the big hit instead of just tackling the guy. It’s a good lesson.”
The teams traded fumbles on consecutive plays, with Bryson Heimerl covering a loose ball at the Broncos 21. Three plays later, Peterson passed to Rogers for a 15-yard TD, and the kick booted the lead to 35-12 with 1:21 left till halftime.
That was long enough for one more Wykon score: Colton Pangrazzi recovered a squib kickoff at the Bronco 46. Peterson’s passes to Rogers and Jonet earned 1st and goal at the 9, and Rogers scored on a reverse (after nearly getting tackled for a loss), giving West Iron a 42-12 halftime lead.
West Iron took the second half kickoff and nearly scored again, with Peterson running for a first down at the Broncos 9. Bark River’s defense held the line and won the ball back on downs at its 3. But on third down at the 6, Peterson and Max Maloney crashed in on Sodergren and tackled him in the end zone for a safety. Wykons, 44-12.
Most of the WIC starters got the rest of the night off. Bark River got its third TD in the fourth quarter on Latta’s 7-yard run. The Broncos recovered a fumble at the Wykon 24 in the final minutes but gave it back on downs at the 12.
One kneeldown later, WIC’s perfect season was official.
“We took care of business,” the coach said. “We did what we had to do. Maybe we were looking down the road [to the playoffs], and that’s one thing we can’t be doing now.”
Until now. The playoffs are here.
West Iron enters the playoffs in fairly good health—among the main players, only Ron Varney (knee) may be on the shelf. As much as possible, Berutti avoided tempting fate at Bark River by getting his starters out of the game early.
Team stats: West Iron, 362 total yards (38-277 rushing, 5-9-85 passing); Bark River-Harris, 242 total yards (37-161 rushing, 6-17-81 passing). First downs: WIC 9, BRH 12.
Individual stats: Rushing, Alec Schmelebeck, 14-145; Chasz Jonet, 6-41; Ryan Rogers, 4-35; Nick Helgemo, 3-42; Andrew Peterson, 2-14. Passing: Peterson, 5-9-85, 2 TDs. Receiving: Rogers, 2-47; Jonet, 2-24; Joe Pisoni, 1-14.
Defense (tackles-assists): Jonet, 5-2; Schmelebeck, 5-1; Brandon Olson, 6-0; Jake Polich, 3-2. Fumble recoveries: Bryson Heimerl, Mykal Zaritz. Sacks: Peterson (2), Zaritz, Andy Ridolphi, Max Maloney.
• The Wykons start their playoff season Nov. 1 against Traverse City St. Francis. It’s their first meeting since the 2008 regional title game at the Superior Dome, which the Gladiators won 35-12.
St. Francis ended its regular season at 5-4, but don’t be fooled by the record. Look who they lost to: 9-0 New Lothrop, 7-2 Boyne City, 8-1 Saginaw Nouvel and 7-2 Muskegon Catholic Central. Their victories include the only losses suffered this season by Maple City Glen Lake and Class B Grayling.
The winner moves on to face either unbeaten Ishpeming or Mancelona in the district title game on Nov. 8 or 9.
Wykons 21 21 2 0 -- 44
Broncos 0 12 0 6 -- 18