GWINN - Ishpeming High School's football team had at least three main goals heading into Thursday night's Mid-Peninsula Conference game at Gwinn:
First, beat the Modeltowners to solidify their playoff position; Second, come out of the contest with no major injuries; and third, fine-tune its game to prepare for postseason play.
Gwinn’s Steve Uhlbeck gets tackled by Ishpeming’s Hunter Wirtanen (15) and Eric Kostreva (11) during the second quarter of the regular season finale for both schools in Gwinn on Thursday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Ishpeming’s Tyrus Millimaki runs down field during the third quarter against Gwinn on Thursday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
With Adam Prisk and Eric Kostreva scoring two touchdowns apiece, the Hematites drubbed Gwinn 53-14 to finish the regular season at 8-1 overall and 5-1 in M-PC play.
"We wanted to stay sharp for the playoffs," IHS head coach Jeff Olson said. "We lost our seventh game of the season (to Negaunee) and didn't play our best (last Friday) against Newberry, so we wanted to get back on track."
The Hematites took a 21-0 first quarter lead and held a 41-8 advantage at the half before a running clock kicked in midway through the third quarter.
"We wanted to start out quick against Gwinn, and we did that," Olson said.
He noted his team attended the recent funeral of Christopher "Bubba" Croley, an eighth-grade student in the Ishpeming school district who died in a car crash.
"You have to give our kids credit for staying focused," Olson said. "It has been a trying year for us."
Nevertheless, Olson said his team may have done well enough to take the top seed in its region to host two playoff games and maybe a third if they keep winning.
"We had to win this one and get back on track to earn playoff points," he said.
Prisk, a fullback, scored on runs of 2 and 9 yards, while Kostreva - who rushed nine times for a game-high 135 yards in just a half of play - posted TD runs of 1 and 40 yards at tailback.
"We blocked well and came off the line well," Olson said. "And our defense keeps us in games."
Gwinn (3-6, 1-5) got a 5-yard scoring pass from quarterback Justin Nyquist to Cody Norman to make it 21-8 early in the second quarter, but couldn't match the potent Hematites afterwards.
"We were just over-matched," GHS coach Darren Sinnaeve said. "Right from the get-go, (Ishpeming) was just heads and tails better than us.
"They didn't do anything fancy. You know what they're going to run. As hard as we worked on it (in practice) during the week, we still couldn't stop them.
"They run that little slant reach play to the outside edge and we didn't have an answer for it," he added, noting his son Luke didn't play due to a hip injury and Owen DeVooght saw limited playing time due to illness.
Ishpeming starting quarterback Alex Briones didn't play as he continues to nurse a bone fracture in his foot.
Tyler Windahl played for Briones and didn't miss a beat, directing the Ishpeming offense the first three quarters to 47 points and scoring the first TD of the night, a 1-yard sneak.
IHS finished with 329 yards rushing and the Modeltowners just 137. Nyquist led his team with 25 yards.
The two squads made it possible at the end of the game for two special needs student-athletes - Eric Dompierre of Ishpeming and C.J. Fisher of Gwinn - to score late touchdowns.
Dompierre complemented three PAT kicks with an uncontested 6-yard scoring run on a fake field goal attempt; Fisher ran 66 yards - also uncontested - for a touchdown.
"It was great for C.J. to get that opportunity," Sinnaeve said.
"We have a lot of core kids coming back. We have some work to do (to rebuild), but I'm looking forward to that core coming back."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.