ISHPEMING - After watching a couple of game films, Ishpeming High School head football coach Jeff Olson came away with some conclusions about his team's next playoff opponent.
"They're a huge team with really big guys," he said of the Mancelona Ironmen, who'll come to Ishpeming for a 1 p.m. game Saturday in the MHSAA Division 7, Region 1, District 1 playoff title game.
"They're a good team offensively and defensively," Olson added. "They're scoring a lot of points and it has been hard for teams to run on them because they're so big."
Ishpeming back Tyler Windahl (32) runs behind the block of junior Adam Prisk (30) and RJ Poirier Oct. 26 in a MHSAA Division 7 pre-district playoff victory over Lincoln Alcona at the Ishpeming Playgrounds. The Hematites host Mancelona at 1 p.m. Saturday in Ishpeming. (Journal photo by Zach?Jay)
Mancelona (10-0) of head coach Dan Derrer beat Whittemore-Prescott 38-24 in pre-district play last week while Ishpeming (9-1) was rolling over Lincoln-Alcona, 40-12.
"(Mancelona's) offense is similar to what we faced last week, but with better athletes," Olson said. "They run a full house T with a lot of misdirection.
"If you leave anyone open, they'll hurt you on offense. We'll have to be on our toes and gap-conscious (on defense)."
R.J. Poirier (5-11, 205 senior), a UPSSA Dream Team Upper Peninsula selection at linebacker, will be called upon to lead the Hematites' defense. He topped his team in tackles with 69 (19 solo) during the regular season.
All-U.P Large School defensive end Joey Lyle (6-1, 180 senior) will also help power the IHS defense. He came up with 41 tackles (17 solo) and four sacks.
"If we want to win (Saturday) or go far (into the playoffs), our defense has to be good," Olson said. "We hope to control (Mancelona's) offense."
Offensively, Ishpeming quarterback Alex Briones (6-2, 205 junior) and running back Eric Kostreva (5-7, 185 senior) are nursing injuries, but may play Saturday. Briones is recovering from a broken foot and Kostreva is trying to play with a "small" meniscus tear in a knee, Olson said.
"Eric played last week. It's just a matter of how much pain he can take," the Hematites' coach said. "(The knee's) a little bit better this week.
"Briones has practiced with some success. He needs a lot of reps in practice (to get his timing back)."
Kostreva, running behind All-Class offensive tackle Brad Wootke (6-2, 255 senior), rushed for 1,153 yards and 17 TDs this season en route to All-U.P. Large School offensive honors.
"Mancelona looks to be a hard team to run against," Olson said. "We have to get our blocking assignments down."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.