West Iron clinches share of West PAC
By RON DEUTER
IRON RIVER – West Iron County’s defense had just as many catches as its offense Saturday afternoon at Nelson Field, and it all added up to another impressive Wykons’ win.
Picking off Northland Pines quarterback Cooper Kerner four times, the Wykons steamrolled the Eagles 39-6 in a game that guarantees West Iron County at least a share of the West PAC title.
“I’m really proud with the way these guys came out and played today,” said West Iron County head coach Mike Berutti. “All the distractions with homecoming and everything that’s going on. I kind of felt if we came out and hit them, that would be to our advantage. And we did a real nice job. I’m real proud of these guys.”
The Wykons, now 7-0 for the first time since 1974, can become the first West Iron County High School football team to go 8-0 and clinch the West PAC outright when they host Hancock Friday night.
“There’s lots to play for,” Berutti said. “It’s a fun and exciting time for these kids and our school. There’s a buzz in the community.”
West Iron County did all of its work against the Eagles in the first half, with all four interceptions – including two by Colton Pangrazzi – coming before halftime. The Wykons erupted for 27 points in the second quarter and took a 39-0 lead into the break, setting up a running clock for the second half.
After holding Northland Pines to three and out on the first series of the game, West Iron needed just two plays for points, as Alec Schmelebeck took a handoff, turned the corner on the left side and bolted 43 yards to pay dirt.
Pangrazzi intercepted an under-thrown ball on the next series. That led to a 16-yard bootleg by quarterback Andrew Peterson for a touchdown. Then Tylor Capadagli came up with a pick around midfield.
The Wykons marched right down for points again. Schmelebeck came up about a half-yard short of his second touchdown on an eight-yard scamper to the goal line, before Peterson squeezed in up-the-gut.
Pangrazzi stepped in front of another Kerner pass on the next series, taking it to the house for a 41-yard score.
A punt return down to the one by Brandon Olson set up the Wykons’ next touchdown, a two-yard rush by Jake Polich.
Then a Nick Helgemo interception gave the ball back to West Iron again, and Peterson threw a swing pass out to Chasz Jonet that went for a 29-yard touchdown.
The Wykons, led by Schmelebeck’s 74 yards, piled up 164 of their 239 rushing yards by halftime.
“Our offensive line is getting better and better each week,” Berutti said. “They jumped around, gave us some looks that we did not practice as well as looks they haven’t shown all year. And our guys figured it out, knew who to block and followed their rules. I’m real proud.”
With the four picks, as well as a couple of sacks, the Wykons held Kerner to 21 yards passing and just 50 yards on 11 carries.
“Max Maloney had big game on defensive end,” Berutti said. “He was all over that quarterback. We brought a lot of pressure. We ran a different defense than we’ve run all year because we were a little nervous of them going to their four or five receiver sets.”
Northland Pines came into the contest at 6-1 and a perfect 4-0 in the West PAC. Now the Wykons are the only unbeaten team in the conference.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Berutti said. “But we can’t hold back. We have to work and try to get better each week.”
NOTES: Wykons senior Ron Varney left the game after taking helmet to his knee. The extent of the injury wasn’t known. … Northland Pines junior Luke Freund went down early in the third quarter with what looked to be a neck or back injury. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and transported to the hospital.
Northland Pines 0 0 0 6 – 6
West Iron County 12 27 0 0 – 39
WIC – Alec Schmelebeck 43 run (kick failed), 10:12.
WIC – Andrew Peterson 16 run (run failed), 2:48.
WIC – Peterson 1 run (run failed), 8:44.
WIC – Colton Pangrazzi 41 interception (kick failed), 6:37.
WIC – Jake Polich 2 run (Nick Helgemo run), 3:13.
WIC – Chasz Jonet 29 pass from Peterson (Ryan Rogers kick), 1:11.
NP – Bailey Ramesh 1 run (kick failed), 3:04.
Total Yards – Northland Pines 192 (171 rush, 21 pass); West Iron County 312 (239 rush, 73 pass).
Rushing leaders – NP: Cooper Kerner 11-50, Bailey Ramesh 12-43, Ryan Ozelie 7-42; WIC: Alec Schmelebeck 9-74, Andrew Peterson 5-46, Tyler Polich 8-42.
Receiving leaders – NP: Ramesh 1-12, Ozelie 1-5; WIC: Jonet 1-29, Max Maloney 1-23.
Passing – NP: Kerner 3-11-21-0-4; WIC: Peterson 4-8-73-1-0.
Interceptions – NP: None; WIC: Colton Pangrazzi (2), Nick Helgemo, Tylor Capadagli.