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Iron Mountain loses defensive struggle to Johannesburg-Lewiston, 7-6, in Division 8 playoff game

Iron Mountain tight end Bryce Pietrantonio, left, eludes a Johennesburg-Lewiston defender after catching a pass in the second half on Saturday at the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

MARQUETTE — Defense, defense and more defense.

That was the key Saturday as Johannesburg-Lewiston inched past Iron Mountain, 7-6, in an MHSAA Division 8 regional championship game held indoors at the Superior Dome on the Northern Michigan University campus.

The game ended as Iron Mountain senior Caleb Evosevich-Hynes missed a 37-yard field goal attempt wide left as time expired.

There was less than 350 total yards of offense, including just 115 by the Mountaineers.

“When a team gets to the state quarterfinals, you’re usually playing against a really good football team,” Iron Mountain head coach Robin Marttila said. “Give Johannesburg-Lewiston credit, they were able to run the ball more effectively than we were throughout the game.

Iron Mountain senior Joey Dumais hauls in a pass in the MHSAA Division 8 regional championship game played against Johannesburg-Lewiston and held Saturday at the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“We didn’t get any big plays like we’re used to, explosive-type plays. We didn’t score enough tonight because of that.”

Jo-Burg, who improved to 10-0, dominated time of possession in the first quarter — basically the entire first half.

“Iron Mountain is a great team, they’re coached well and you can tell their kids are prepared like it,” said Cardinals head coach Joe Smokevitch, a Crystal Falls native. “I am excited to get this win and I am excited for our kids.”

The Mountaineers’ first possession got a boost from a 40-yard completion from quarterback Eli Lofholm to Dante Basanese. However, the potential scoring drive ended on the next play when Cardinals senior defensive back Jason Ritcher picked off a Lofholm pass in the end zone.

The first quarter ended scoreless, though Iron Mountain (8-2) reaching paydirt a mere 27 seconds into the second stanza. After Jo-Burg turned the ball over on downs, junior Gabe Richtig crossed the goal line into the left corner of the end zone to give the Mountaineers a 6-0 lead. Jo-Burg knocked down an Evosevich-Hynes pass attempt for the Mountaineers two-point conversion attempt.

Late in the second quarter, the Cardinals capped a nine-play drive as all-state fullback Sheldon Huff barreled into the end zone from five yards out. Junior Henry Baker added a left-footed extra point that ended up making all the difference in the outcome.

The Mountaineers got the ball back one last time with less than 2:30 remaining and a timeout. IM methodically moved downfield to set up a game-winning TD or field goal attempt.

The field goal try, despite having the distance, went wide left and the Cardinals stormed the field in excitement. They advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1998.

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