Hematites capture back-to-back titles
By STEVE BROWNLEE
For The Daily News
DETROIT – Detroit Loyola High School was reported to be spoiling for a rematch with Ishpeming to end this year’s high school football season.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs learned that age-old lesson – be careful what you wish for, because it might just come true.
In a rematch of the 2012 MHSAA Division 7 state final, the Hematites showed last year’s championship wasn’t a fluke with a 22-12 victory at Ford Field in Detroit.
Loyola couldn’t be blamed for having overwhelming confidence coming into this game. Despite being a small Class C school like Ishpeming, the Bulldogs not only played but won every game of an all-Class A and Class B schedule during the regular season, then plowed through four playoff opponents by averaging 51 points a game and winning each by at least 43.
But the Hematites were also a perfect 13-0 entering this day, taking games to a running clock in 11 of them, including three of the four playoff contests.
Then on Saturday, unlike in last year’s back-and-forth championship matchup where the lead changed hands several times, this Ishpeming squad took control from the opening kickoff and held Loyola at bay even when the Bulldogs threatened to make a game of it down the stretch.
“We didn’t dominate the game, but some things went our way because the big plays went our way,” IHS 22nd-year head coach Jeff Olson said in the postgame news conference. “We’re a smash-mouth team, and they made it difficult on us, so we had to throw the ball some.”
Bulldogs coach John Callahan agreed with much of Olson’s assessment.
“You can look at fourth-and-goal plays and some others, but what it boiled down to was that they outplayed us,” the fifth-year coach said. “We had probably our best week of practice preparing for this game, but we got whooped, we got beat.”
“From the opening kickoff, the ball bounced the wrong way, but that’s because Ishpeming helped make it bounce the wrong way.”
If an opening kickoff can set the mood for an entire game, this one was it.
Alex Briones booted the opening kickoff on a line drive that hit the turf and eluded Loyola returner Patrick Harbin. He tried to pick the ball up so he could run with it, rather than taking a safer route by just falling on it.
He failed to see that several Hematites, including junior Ozzie Hakkarinen, were quickly converging on him and it was Hakkarinen that came up with the ball at the Bulldogs’ 22-yard line.
Briones ran the ball five straight times before the Hematites faced third-and-15 at the 17. He then unleashed a throw on the run and against the grain to a waiting junior Marcus Antilla, who was wide open in the end zone for a touchdown.
Senior running back Adam Prisk ran in for what would later prove to be an important two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
Mitch Laurin made an early quarterback sack to preserve Ishpeming’s initial advantage, then Tyrus Millimaki and Bobby Zhulkie made interceptions on back-to-back Loyola possessions.
Just before halftime, Derek DeCaire stopped the Bulldogs two yards from the end zone to preserve the first-half shutout.
Add in second-half stops on fourth-and-less-than-1, then on a two-point conversion – both by Jordan Tousignant – and the Bulldogs spent the last three and a half quarters down by multiple scores.
Meanwhile on offense, Briones ruled the game throughout the first half. On the first play of the second quarter, he made a spectacular play to bump the margin to 14-0, scrambling 15 yards backward before finding senior Mitch Laurin along the goal line for his 21st TD pass of the season.
A 37-yard gain by Prisk set up the Hematites in the third quarter.
The drive ended three plays and a penalty later with Briones going airborne with a dive into the end zone. Briones tacked on a two-point pass to Antilla for a 22-0 advantage.
MHSAA Division 7 championship
Ford Field, Detroit
Detroit Loyola 0 0 6 6 – 12
Ishpeming 8 6 8 0 – 22
ISH – Marcus Antilla 17 pass from Alex Briones (Adam Prisk run), 8:45
ISH – Mitch Laurin, 2 pass from Briones (run failed), 11:53
ISH – Briones, 2 run (Antilla pass from Briones), 4:38
LOY – Keith Graves, 34 pass from Garrett Schaller (run failed), 1:46
LOY – Graves, 31 pass from Schaller (pass failed), 3:52
First downs – Loyola, 15; Ishpeming, 10
Rushing – Loyola, 25-62 (Marvin Campbell, 11-51); Ishpeming, 44-146 (Prisk, 9-77)
Passing – Loyola, Schaller, 14-31-3-201; Ishpeming, Briones, 6-13-0-76.
Grand Rapids West Catholic wins D5 state title
DETROIT (AP) – A literal Lou Lou of a play put Grand Rapids West Christian on its way to a 27-14 win over Menominee on Saturday in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 5 state championship.
A touchdown on a fake field goal – named Lou Lou – broke a 7-all tie and sparked the Falcons, who were Division 5 runners-up last season.
On the play, Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-4) snapped the ball directly to kicker Travis Hoving, who threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Witham near the sideline with 3:27 left in the third quarter. It worked perfectly, as no Menominee player was near Witham as he raced down the right sideline and caught the ball around the 10-yard line.
Falcons’ coach Dan Rohn said the play’s name honors his mother, Lou Lou, who died 25 years ago.
“That’s a play we practice and we went over it with the officials before the game,” Rohn said.
Maroons coach Joe Noha was skeptical after the game.
“We questioned that a little bit,” he said. “They were out there, they made an exchange and he was still out there. He blended in well. We questioned that but they said it was a legal play.”
On its next possession, Grand Rapids West Catholic quarterback Travis Russell ran 25 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 21-7. Russell then tossed a 45-yeard pass to Drake Wooten, who made a diving catch in the end zone. Hoving missed the extra point.
Menominee finishes the season 13-1.
“We got beat on some big plays and didn’t capitalize twice in the red zone,” Noha said.
Menominee’s James Brown rushed for 102 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown, while quarterback Justin Brilinski rushed for 71 yards, and a touchdown.