Prep football: IM hosts West Iron for home opener


Sports Editor

IRON MOUNTAIN – A seasoned West Iron County football team heads to Mountaineer Stadium Friday to take on the Mountaineers in Iron Mountain’s 2013 home opener.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. for the annual Week 3 contest featuring the 2-0 Wykons against the 1-1 Mountaineers.

“West Iron is a very experienced football team,” Mountaineers coach Robin Marttila said. “They play seven seniors on offense and nine on defense. I know that of this group of seniors, at least five have started since they were sophomores. So they are a very experienced team and a good football team.

“They’ve got some good players that we’ve watched the past couple years. We’re going to have to play well to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Iron Mountain, in addition to a 22-game win streak against Wykons, has shut out West Iron County in three straight meetings. Last year’s game was a 39-0 IM victory.

“All we are concerned about is the game Friday night,” Marttila said. “We don’t care what happened last year. We don’t care what happened at the JV level. We care about the game Friday night and we’re going to try to win Friday night.”

Like Marttila, West Iron County head coach Mike Berutti also doesn’t put much stock into the past history of this series.

“We’ve had our struggles against Iron Mountain,” he said. “There’s been a few close games too where we just couldn’t quite pull it off. Iron Mountain is Iron Mountain. We know they are going to come out and play hard. (James) Christiansen is an excellent football player. We’ve got to worry about containing (Craig) Qualley. And they’ve also got some good experience back on their offensive line.

“We’re going to play as hard as we can and hope some good things happen. But until we beat them, Iron Mountain is the team to beat in this series.”

Iron Mountain, in securing its first victory last week with a 27-8 win at Gwinn, got is running game on track. James Christiansen rumbled for 291 yards in the triumph, busting several long runs.

Quarterback Craig Qualley ran for two touchdowns, as the Mountaineers amassed 353 yards of offense on the ground.

“No. 1, we got better, and that was the goal,” Marttila said of last week’s effort. “We got better as far as blocking and tackling. We fought hard throughout the entire game, and we were able to get the job done on the road in Gwinn. It was a tough game, but we were able to run the ball and get the job done.”

West Iron County also found its ground game in Week 2, dumping L’Anse 27-14 with a team total of 292 yards rushing. Chasz Jonet totaled 108 of those yards. Ron Varney added 86, and third-year quarterback Andrew Peterson tacked on another 72 with two scores.

“We’ve had some guys playing out of position,” Berutti said. “We’re getting guys back and getting more comfortable. Last week, we decided we were going to run the football and follow our big tackles.”

“They’re a wing-t based offense, and they do it pretty well,” Marttila said. “We haven’t faced that yet this year so that will be a challenge for us. But they’ve shown they also can get back in the I formation and pound the football at you.

“Their size in the backfield with (Alec) Schmelebeck, Varney and Jonet, it’s is a big and very physical backfield. And then you throw the QB in there who is a real good football player who we’re well aware of. They are going to pose some challenges at us when they have the ball, and we know that. I hope we’re up for the challenge.”

The backfield trio Marttila mentioned all come in at 200 pounds or more. Peterson goes 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds. Marttila said the West Iron line also poses some match-up issues for the Mountaineers.

“They are bigger on the line,” he said. “The tackles, (Bryson) Heimerl and (Andy) Ridolphi give them real good size. We’re going to have to play well to win.”

Heimerl is listed at 6-3 and 300 pounds, while Ridolphi comes in a 6-1 and 265.

“We match up well at tackle,” Berutti said. “We are a little inexperienced in the middle of the offensive line.”

While West Iron County comes into Friday’s game undefeated, Berutti knows Iron Mountain’s 1-1 mark isn’t a knock on the Mountaineers.

“They got beat by Ishpeming, and I think everybody knows by now that Ishpeming is the real deal,” he said. “Iron Mountain looked good at Gwinn, handled them real well. We’ve got to play mistake-free, protect the football and fly around on defense.”

Friday’s game also features a father-son coaching battle on the sidelines. Long-time Iron Mountain assistant Kevin Sullivan goes up against his son Joby, a former Mountaineer player who is in his first year of coaching as an assistant with the Wykons.

“It’s going to be different,” Sullivan said of seeing his son on the other sideline. “I’m an emotional guy too. But we’re going to go at ’em and try to beat them.”

Iron Mountain heads to Negaunee next week. West Iron County travels to Ironwood.

NOTES: Iron Mountain junior Izzy Barraza, injured in Week 1 at Ishpeming, has been lost for the season with a torn ACL.