Ishpeming Hematites finish football season with 26-0 shutout posted by Bark River-Harris

Ishpeming's Luke Kostreva runs the ball during the first quarter of a high school football game against Bark River-Harris at the Ishpeming Playgrounds on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (Journal photo by Travis Nelson)

MARQUETTE — The Ishpeming Hematites football team had trouble moving the ball and stopping the visiting Bark River-Harris Broncos’ running game in a 26-0 home loss on Thursday night.

The loss dashed Ishpeming’s (3-5) postseason and conference hopes, as both were hanging on the result of this game. Even if the Hematites would’ve won the regular-season finale, they would’ve needed some help from around the state to sneak into the MHSAA Division 8 playoffs, according to calculations determined by Ishpeming head coach Cody Kugler.

However, the Broncos (6-3) had business of their own to take care of, and the visitors galloped away with the West PAC Iron Division title.

“It means a lot to this program, first of all,” Bark River-Harris coach Al Stenberg said. “There’s been a lot of teams that have set their eyes on this, a lot of Bark River-Harris football players that have come up here to Ishpeming and battled and got our butts kicked.”

He made references to Kugler and past head coaches Jeff Olson and George Niemi.

“So hats off to the program up here, Coach Kugler, Coach Olson, Coach Niemi for what they’ve done,” Stenberg said. “It’s a really remarkable thing to get a win on this field, the Ishpeming Playgrounds, it’s an honor, it really is an honor.

“For these kids and especially a young team, and maybe they don’t understand the historical significance of it, but this is a great win for Bark River-Harris football and I’m proud of our boys.”

The Hematites managed just 79 yards of offense on 37 plays. Luke Kostreva left injured in the first quarter, and he nearly led the team in rushing with 22 yards as teammate Dawson Lawry had 23. Ethan Corp entered the game for Ishpeming’s final drive as the fourth quarterback of the night, and he led the team in passing with 22 yards.

Injuries played a big part in this also, with Hunter Smith already out going into the game and Kostreva going down early. Ishpeming was down to its third quarterback and couldn’t overcome these hiccups.

“I know the score wasn’t what we really wanted but it’s something where we had some injuries,” Kugler said. “We already had one of our quarterbacks (Hunter Smith) out, our other quarterback (Kostreva) went out of the game early in the first quarter.

“We had to shuffle some guys back there, which took out a majority of our game plan. But defensively, I mean we had some mistakes here and there, but the effort never really stopped.”

Defensively, IHS couldn’t stop the Broncos’ three-headed running monster that combined for 41 carries, 288 yards and two touchdowns. Noah Gagne led the Broncos with 120 yards and a TD, Trevor Lippins also got into triple digits with 101 yards and a TD of his own, while Josiah Javurek added 67 yards.

“We made plays when we needed to,” Stenberg said. “All three of our backs, our two wings, Noah Gagne and Josiah Javurek, carried the ball well. Trevor Lippens has been doing this for us for three years. On paper he’s nothing special, 6-foot and maybe 185 (pounds), but he’s carried the load for us for three years.

“He is a heck of a leader and he runs the ball hard, and he sees things before they happen. So he’s got that intangible as a fullback in the wing-T (offense), a gift that’s going to be missed for sure.”

Despite the outcome, Ishpeming had a great opportunity early after the Broncos’ Logan Getzloff fumbled the opening kickoff. Sam Dyer pounced on it as the Hematites took over inside Bark River territory.

Kostreva led the way in the backfield with all of his 22 yards coming on the first drive before leaving the game. However, the drive stalled in the red zone as his fourth down pass in the end zone fell incomplete.

The Broncos took control from there with an 89-yard scoring drive spanning 13 plays, capped off with a 1-yard touchdown from Lippens.

Ishpeming was forced to punt on its next possession and BR-H marched down the field again with a seven-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard burst from Gagne to put the Broncos up 12-0 near the midpoint of the second quarter, which was the halftime score, too.

Dawson Lawry moved to QB in the first half once Kostreva exited, but Ishpeming went to Logan Hurkmans to begin the second half. The Hematites’ first possession showed promise with a couple first downs. IHS reached midfield, but a false start set them before they turned the ball over on downs.

The Broncos began another methodical drive, and when faced with fourth-and-goal, quarterback Ethan Ives found Getzloff on a slant route for a 10-yard score. Gagne’s 2-point conversion run made it 20-0 with 4:15 left in the third.

The Broncos weren’t satisfied, though, as they scored again, actually on Ishpeming’s next possession when Lippens intercepted a Hurkmans pass and made a short return for the pick-6 just 66 seconds later for the final points of the night.

Afterward, Kugler praised his senior group. Last year, they didn’t have a team as juniors, and only played six games this year as seniors with a bye week and two forfeit wins. However, Kugler added that he couldn’t have been more pleased with how his team handled adversity.

“It’s discouraging to see them, but they kept coming into the locker room with high spirits and always looking forward to chatting with me about the game plan and just talking to them as kids,” Kugler said. “I mean what they want to do, who their favorite sports teams are, crack a couple jokes.

“Adversity comes into a big point in everybody’s life, these seniors got a little more adversity than probably any other high school athlete that I personally want to say from COVID.”

“I’m very happy for what the seniors have done.”

Travis Nelson can be reached by email at tnelson@miningjournal.net.


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