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Olson just the head of Ishpeming football progam's 7-man coaching operation

Standing alone is not an option

November 23, 2012
By STEVE BROWNLEE - Journal Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

ISHPEMING - Like the sport itself, football coaching will never be successful if it's all a one-man effort.

Ishpeming High School varsity head coach Jeff Olson knows that as well as any coach around as he's in his 21st year guiding the Hematites to their 14th playoff appearance in his tenure.

This Saturday will culminate Ishpeming's 11th straight playoff season when the Hematites play in the MHSAA Division 7 state championship game at 10 a.m. at Ford Field in Detroit. Live television coverage will be available on cable channel Fox Sports Detroit.

This marks the school's second trip to the finals in three years and fourth overall. Ishpeming won it all in the state's first playoff year of 1975 along with 1979.

"There's so many parts with 11 kids on the field," Olson said, "and you have to coach a lot of different techniques.

"The more coaches you can get, the better."

Olson, who acts as the team's offensive and defensive coordinator, has six assistant coaches this season, let by his top assistant, Scott Syrjala, who is in his ninth season with the varsity.

"He was our head JV coach, but he's been my righthand man for awhile," Olson said.

Syrjala, who is also the Hematites head boys and girls track coach, is Olson's No. 1 go-to guy both during and out of football season.

"He adds a lot to the program. He's very knowledgeable," the head coach said. "It's good to have someone like that. He can take charge of things when I need him to."

Syrjala also concentrates on running back and quarterbacks.

Dion Brown has been with the varsity team for "about five years," according to Olson, and is a former player at Northern Michigan University.

"He works with our defensive backs and is also very knowledgeable. Being a bit younger, he relates well with the kids and they respond to him extremely well."

Three of Olson's former players now assist him, too. Zach Gauthier is a 2003 Ishpeming graduate, Tony Marietti in 2006 and Brad Waters in 2008.

The first two also played at NMU as Gauthier specializes with linebackers and Marietti with receivers and outside linebackers. Waters helps with the backfield and runs the second-team offense and defense for intrasquad scrimmages that prepares the starters for upcoming games.

And this year Olson also has Walter Hansen, an Ishpeming district student teacher from NMU who played at Rapid River.

His specialization is with linemen and special teams.

"I welcome input about any aspect of the team from any one of them," Olson said about his coaches. "The more eyes you have, the more thoroughly you cover everything."

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.



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