Wykons’ offense sputters in state semifinal loss

MARQUETTE—When teams get to the business end of a state tournament, margins are often razor-thin, and one play can spell the difference between staying alive for the ultimate prize and heading home with the profoundly empty feeling of falling just short of a dream.
    For the West Iron County Wykons, that play came just as folks were settling back into their seats at the Superior Dome at the start of the second half of their MHSAA Division 8 semifinal matchup against Saginaw Nouvel. Panther senior Kenneth Kujawa took Neil Tomasoski’s kickoff at the 18-yard line and burst free for an 80-yard kickoff return. Four plays later, Jacob Burr kicked a 20-yard field goal, his only field goal of the season, and that spelled the difference in Nouvel’s 17-14 victory over the Wykons Nov. 17.
    The Panthers (13-0) face Ottawa Lake Whiteford (13-0), which routed Mendon 50-21 in the semis, for the Division 8 state crown Nov. 24. Meanwhile the Wykons (11-2) were left to contend with the stinging emotions of a narrow miss one step shy of playing for the school’s first state football championship.
    “It sucks,” Tomasoski said simply. “It’s terrible.”
    West Iron coach Mike Berutti was asked if he felt pride in his team’s run this season and its hard-fought battle against Nouvel or if the nature of the defeat made the loss even more difficult.
    “For me, it’s bittersweet,” Berutti said. “I think tomorrow it will be pride, but tonight it’s bittersweet.”   

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