Stout defense, enough offense

ISHPEMING – It was far from easy, but the Ishpeming High School football team got what it wanted Friday night:

A season-opening victory.

Trailing 7-0 at the half, the Hematites used some key offensive and defensive plays in the final two quarters to come away with a 14-7 Mid-Peninsula Conference victory over visiting Iron Mountain.

“We knew this was going to be a bloodbath,” IHS veteran head coach Jeff Olson said. “But when we had to have a couple of big plays, we got them. I liked the way we gutted it out the second half.”

Touchdowns by senior end Luke Kuliu and senior quarterback Ozzy Corp, together with strong defensive plays from Daren Giuchin and Isaac Olson, enabled Ishpeming to claim a key M-PC triumph.

“It was a real tough game and we’re disappointed,” IM head coach Robin Marttila said. “We had to make some plays and didn’t.”

The Mountaineers made a big play on their first offensive series, however, with senior quarterback Tanner Huotari hitting junior running back Josh Tucker with an 83-yard scoring pass on their first play from scrimmage.

“That was a great play and a great catch,” Marttila said. “But it’s hard to win a game with just seven points.

“We just couldn’t stop (Ishpeming) at the right times.”

The Hematites saw a couple of long offensive plays go for naught due to penalties, much to the chagrin of their coach.

“We seemed to make every mistake in the book for the first 1 1/2 quarters,” Olson said. “But the kids didn’t put their heads down. That’s the sign of a competitive team.”

Kuliu, after coming out for a couple of plays in a third-quarter Ishpeming drive due to leg cramps on the warm and humid night, snared a 3-yard TD pass from Corp.

A two-point conversion pass from Corp to Nick Comment gave IHS an 8-7 lead with 10.3 seconds left in the quarter.

“It was just a post and Ozzy threw a good ball,” Kuliu said. “But right when I jumped for the ball, I got another cramp.”

IHS junior defensive back Giuchin intercepted a Huotari pass with 7:26 left, then Corp notched a 4-yard scoring run with 3:06 remaining after he had hit Comment with a key third-down, 16-yard pass to keep the Ishpeming drive going.

“It was third-and-8 and No. 4 (Comment) made a great play,” Marttila said. “They just made a couple of more plays than we did.”

Olson, a junior defensive lineman, sealed Iron Mountain’s doom with a pair of sacks within a minute of each other late in regulation.

“I was on the end and blitzed off the edge on the first one,” he recalled. “I just outran their quarterback and grabbed him by the legs.

“The second one (for 12 yards with 2:05 left), I was double-teammed but used a swim move to get by and chase (Huotari). I was just faster and got him.

“I didn’t know if I’d get him, but his mind was occupied and our defensive backs helped out with great coverage,” he added.

Said coach Olson: “Isaac’s a sprinter in track and we put him on the edge to use his speed. The kids just played great defense.”

Tucker wound up with 60 yards in eight carries to lead IM; Corp rushed for 118 yards in 26 attempts.

“We just had more heart in the second half,” Kuliu said. “We were shocked to find us losing in the first half.”

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is cremsburg@miningjournal.net.