Wykons fall to Hematites in bruising, tight battle

West Iron sophomore running back Nathan Thomson tries to fight off Ishpeming linebacker Otto Swanson during the teams’ West Pac Conference battle on Oct. 6. The Wykons had little success offensively against the Hematites and were shutout 14-0 on Homecoming.

IRON RIVER—For those who enjoy the run-oriented and hard-hitting defensive football games of yesteryear, the battle between West Iron County and Ishpeming on Oct. 6 was a thing of beauty.
    The Wykons and the Hematites, ranked No. 2 and No. 1 in the UPSSA small school poll respectively, staged a bruising battle on a mainly overcast fall Saturday afternoon at Nelson Field on West Iron’s Homecoming. In the end, it was Ishpeming that was able to produce enough offense to secure the 14-0 victory.
    “The first thing I’m going to say is Ishpeming’s a good football team but so are we,” WIC coach Mike Berutti said. “Our defense played extremely well. We were not afraid of them and we stood up to them.
    “But against this team you’ve got to play perfect and we didn’t.”
    Ishpeming senior back Gavin Sundberg scored on a 1-yard run after completing a 46-yard pass late in the first quarter and then added a 4-yard run late in the third quarter to keep his team unbeaten at 7-0.
    Hematite coach Jeff Olson, whose team came into the fray averaging 43 points per game, said he wasn’t all that surprised with the way the game played out.
    “We know West Iron’s a great football program. We know they’re very well coached. They’re coming off a state semifinal berth and they returned half their guys. This is a program that’s in the playoffs year after year, so we knew it was going to be a tough game.”
    What Olson’s team did better was run the ball far more effectively. Ishpeming compiled 267 yards on the ground on 48 carries (5.6 average), compared to just 52 yards on 21 carries (2.5) for West Iron.
    Sundberg led the way with 146 yards on 32 carries, while Hunter Smith added 76 yards on 10 carries. West Iron’s top rusher was Noah Lewis, who had 31 yards on five carries.
    Berutti said Ishpeming’s strength and size up the middle was difficult to contend with.
    “They are big and strong in the center and they don’t get moved. Going up the gut was probably not going to happen. Those two guys in the middle (of the line) were big and those linebackers were coming. Those four inside guys were just going after our fullback.”
    The statistics bear that out. West Iron fullback Bryant Schram was held to just seven yards on five carries.

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