Key plays propel Gwinn
By MATT “SWEETS” McCARTHY
Iron Mountain Daily News
NORWAY — Gwinn converted two key offensive plays in the second quarter, but it was a pair of stout defensive stands in the final period that lifted the Modeltowners to a 14-12 victory at Norway at the Knights’ Ronberg Field on Friday night.
“The kids played hard, our defense played their tails off,” Norway head coach Scott Popp said about this West PAC Iron Division game. “Up front, they were too much for us. They’re bigger and they’re stronger.”
Gwinn head coach and Iron Mountain native Ben Olsen praised his line on both sides of the ball.
“They’re the strength of our football team; we have some big kids who are three-year starters and they’re a valuable asset,” Olsen said. “Reid Hill, Cameron Ghiringhelli, their valuable experience is an asset to our team.”
The game began with the teams feeling each other out offensively, exchanging several punts each. Then a short Gwinn punt gave good field position to the Knights, which they cashed it in.
Gannon Bray scored on a 6-yard run with 5:29 to go in the opening quarter to give the Knights a 6-0 lead. Less than two minutes later, Norway’s Chase Carlson recovered his first of two fumbles to give the Knights the ball back.
Norway began the second quarter with the ball, but turned it back over to the Modeltowners as Shafaar Evans stepped in front of a Bray pass for an interception. Gwinn accumulated some yardage and a couple of first downs, but eventually turned the ball back over.
Carlson recovered his second fumble of the first half, but the Knights were unable to move the ball, and had punted again. The Modeltowners took that possession and marched downfield, scoring with 5:52 left in the first half to tie it 6-6 on a powerful 10-yard run by Gwinn fullback Reid Hill.
On the Modeltowners’ final possession of the opening half, quarterback Mastin Love connected with Kevin Noble on a 15-yard reception to set up first-and-goal at the Norway 5-yard line.
Love, who was the Modeltowners third-string QB to start the season, played his first plays at quarterback in the game.
“We asked a lot of him tonight and he played great,” Olson said.
Gwinn running back Carl Peterson then scored from 5 yards out with 22 seconds remaining before the halftime gun. Peterson added what would prove to be a crucial two-point conversion, also a run, to put the Modeltowners ahead to stay, 14-6.
Norway looked to get good field position on its first possession of the second half when junior Nolan Amundson returned a Gwinn punt about 25 yards, but the return was wiped out by a block-in-the-back penalty.
That possession stalled and the Knights were forced to punt after a quarterback sack by Ghiringhelli and Modeltowners teammate Jude Edwards.
Gwinn’s ensuing drive stalled, though, and Norway got the ball back near the end of the third quarter. At that point, Norway put together its best drive of the second half, keyed by a 29-yard pass from QB Nathaniel Nanny to Zachary Seat.
The Knights continued moving to start the final quarter, and in fact scored less than a minute in on a 14-yard run by Bray. The two-point conversion pass attempt that would’ve tied the game fell short.
On Gwinn’s next possession, Norway linebacker Evan Anderson leaped up and made an incredible play for an interception of a Love pass. The Knights got the ball around the Gwinn 30 with under 10 minutes remaining.
Nanny found Amundson on a 15-yard completion as the Knights got the ball into the red zone. Then Nanny tried another pass into a group of receivers in the end zone, but Evans made a great play for his second interception, this one in his own end zone with less than 5:30 to go.
The Knights weren’t done though, forcing Gwinn to punt as Amundson returned the ball all the way down to the Gwinn 13.
Norway tried four plays to retake the lead, but Gwinn’s defense held as Nanny’s pass on fourth-and-8 fell incomplete.
On third-and-10 from their own 8-yard line, Evans found the edge on the right side of his line for a 28-yard gain, all but sealing the win, the first for Olsen on the football field.
“Hancock took it to us pretty good the first game of the season, we got punched in the mouth, and we learned some things about our team,” Olsen said. “To get the win tonight in a hard-fought game feels pretty good.
“Against Calumet in our second game, we got a whole lot more physical, and it showed tonight.”
Popp concurred, saying the Modeltowners were more physical.
“We couldn’t move the ball, their D-line and linebackers were getting in our backfield. Gannon (Bray) ran his tail off,” Popp said. “The kids never gave up, they played as hard as they could.”
On Friday, Norway (0-4) remains home to host Manistique for its homecoming, while Gwinn (1-3) will also come home to host West Iron County.
Both games are Iron Division games in the West PAC.