ISHPEMING - Coach Jeff Olson said prior to this season he wanted his Ishpeming High School team to throw the ball more and Friday night, he was good on his objective.
Quarterback Alex Briones completed 8 of 13 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns as the Hematites beat host Westwood, 38-8, in a Mid-Peninsula Conference game.
IHS, ranked No. 4 in the state in Division 7 by the Associated Press, started the game with five straight aerials, the first two to Tyrus Millimaki that covered a combined 72 yards and resulted in a 33-yard touchdown.
Ishpeming’s Eric Kostreva, left, tries to shake a Westwood tackler during the second quarter on Friday at the Westwood High School football field in Ishpeming. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"(Westwood's) defense dictated that early," Olson said after his team improved to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in league play. "They were loading up a lot of guys against the run and just playing man (pass) coverage on the edge.
"We thought we might have a little advantage out there and Alex has a good arm.
"Once we saw they were way up on us and geared to stop the run, we took a shot," the coach added. "It worked."
Iron Mountain at Westwood, 7:30 p.m.
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WHS coach Jon Beckman said the Hematites throwing the ball twice to open their night's offensive attack was a bit of a surprise.
"It was a little out of character," he said. "We had the defense ready, but just didn't cover well. Two blown coverages to start the game is not what you want."
Especially after WHS had moved the ball smartly on its opening possession with the help of a 27-yard pass from QB Nathan Clisch to Travis Swanson before the Patriots gave up the ball on downs at the Ishpeming 28.
Briones, who had attempted just 20 passes in three games this season, also connected on a 31-yard TD strike to Adam Prisk. In addition, Briones scored on a sneak, passed for one two-point conversion and ran for another.
"He's a heckuva athlete," Olson said of the junior.
With Ishpeming leading 16-0 entering the third quarter, the Patriots (2-2, 0-1) got their lone score at 8:02. An Ishpeming snap went between two backfield players and Westwood's Derek Wing scooped it up for an 82-yard TD run.
"We had a new player there when Alex came out for a play," Olson said. "Both players thought they were doing the right thing, but no one went for the ball. It was just miscommunication."
But Ishpeming came right back behind tailback Eric Kostreva - who finished with 158 yards rushing on 17 carries on the night - to make it 24-8 on the senior's 3-yard run for a score less than four minutes later.
"If you want to be a great football team, you have to respond in a positive way," Olson said. "We did."
With 3:20 left in the quarter, the Hematites put the game away with Prisk's TD reception. It was set up by a Millimaki interception.
"We made them work in the third quarter and had chances to stop them, but didn't," Beckman said. "The turning point was not being able to stop them there."
Tyler Windahl made it a 30-point win with a 9-yard scoring burst with 11:55 left in the game.
The Ishpeming defense held the M-PC's top offense to just 84 yards rushing and 43 passing. It also picked off two Clisch passes.
"Our defense played fantastic," Olson said. "Westwood's a good football team and we respect both their tailback (Zach Rankinen) and fullback (Francois Montbrun). We did a great job containing them."
In a reserve role, Tyler Harvala led Westwood in rushing with 36 yards on nine carries.
"Our line play was fantastic and it was a total team effort," Olson said.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.