If someone wrote a screenplay that read like Ishpeming High School's football season, some might characterize the scenario as too incredible to be true.
But it is.
The Hematites will take to Ford Field in Detroit this morning, playing for the Michigan High School Athletic Association's Division 7 title after already winning a battle that allowed one of the team's favorite players an opportunity to participate - and after overcoming heartbreak that certainly would have felled a lesser group.
The battle was for senior Eric Dompierre to be allowed by the MHSAA to take to the field at all. Under the old MHSAA rules, Eric, at 19 before the season's start, was deemed too old to join the team.
Eric, who kicks some extra points for the IHS football team, was a bit behind his peers in school because he has Down syndrome.
But through the persistence of Eric's parents, Dean and Jill, and a ton of other supporters, the rules were changed and Eric was allowed to join his teammates for this season.
The heartbreak the Hematites are working through involves the loss of two young men who were stalwarts on past teams - and one who was making his way up to the varsity level.
The team members are playing with Daniel Olson, Derrick Briones and Christopher "Bubba" Croley in their hearts.
Olson, son of head coach Jeff Olson, took his own life in July. He was just 19.
As Jeff Olson and his wife, Sally, so poignantly shared with Mining Journal Sports Writer Steve Brownlee in a story that appeared Wednesday, they want the topic suicide to be discussed openly in the hopes that someone else going through the darkness of depression might be reached.
Briones, the brother of Hematite quarterback Alex Briones, died in 2011 at age 18. And Bubba Croley perished in a tragic auto accident in October, just one day short of his 14th birthday.
That's a great deal for anyone of any age to overcome, but with great spirit, the Hematite players won their place in the state title game, playing for their lost friends.
We imagine most of the town will be in the Motor City Saturday to cheer their boys on to victory.
And we know the rest of the Upper Peninsula will be rooting for Ishpeming to bring home another state title, having two such trophies in hand already.
Regardless of Saturday's outcome, however, we hope each of these young players realize they are winners already, for overcoming so much and playing so hard as a team, unified in the effort to be the best they can be, while remembering some special folks who are no longer with them.