L'ANSE - L'Anse's 34-0 win over a rebuilding Houghton squad in last week's season opener was impressive, but the Purple Hornets really sent a message Thursday night by dominating defending WestPAC champion West Iron County 40-20 at Meadowbrook Field.
"Any time you beat a perennial powerhouse like that, that's huge," L'Anse coach Mark Leaf said.
"I'm very proud of the kids who came out and executed very well against a very quality team. It was a great win for our program."
L’Anse running back Cody Goldsworthy sheds a West Iron County tackler on a first-half run in the Purple Hornets’ 40-20 win over the Wykons Thursday night in L’Anse. For the second straight week, Goldsworthy tallied 20-plus carries and 130-plus yards. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
The teams battled through a scoreless first quarter, but eventually the Hornets' powerful, deep rushing attack overpowered the Wykons.
L'Anse tallied 284 rushing yards in the game and four different players tacked on a rushing touchdown.
"L'Anse came out with the football, hit us in the teeth and took it to us," WIC coach Mike Berutti said. "The better team won tonight."
West Iron 0 8 0 12 - 20
L'Anse 0 24 8 8 - 40
LAN Jimmy Veker 6-yard pass from Jacob Ostermeyer (Veker run), 9:16
LAN Veker 24-yard run (Jonny Magaraggia pass from Ostermeyer), 7:06
LAN Cody Goldsworthy 6-yard run (Veker run), 0:41.6
WIC Brandon Clifford 7-yard pass from Andrew Peterson (Tyler Stafford run), 0:00.3
LAN Gavin Picciano 10-yard run (Veker run), 1:14
WIC Peterson 1-yard run (conversion failed), 10:29
WIC Stafford 32-yard pass from Peterson (conversion failed), 9:16
LAN Brandon Kemppainen 19-yard run (Veker pass from Ostermeyer), 5:07
First downs WIC 15, LAN 17; Total yards - WIC 219 (120 rush, 99 pass), LAN 290 (284 rush, 6 pass); Rushing WIC, Adam Newby 3-32; Stafford 5-31; Chasz Jonet 8-29; Ron Varney 4-22; Alec Schmelebeck 2-12; Peterson 2-1, 1 TD; Taylor Capadagli 1-1; Ryan Rogers 1-(-1); Joe Pisoni 1-(-7); LAN, Goldsworthy 24-135, 1 TD; Veker 17-90, 1 TD; Picciano 3-46, 1 TD; Kemppainen 2-20, 1 TD; Ostermeyer 1-(-7); Passing - WIC, Peterson 8-17-93, 2 TD; Pisoni 1-1-6; LAN, Ostermeyer 1-2-6, 1 TD; Receiving WIC, Stafford 1-32, 1 TD; Pisoni 1-27; Clifford 2-20, 1 TD; Newby 1-13; Jonet 3-11; Rogers 1-6; LAN, Veker 1-6, 1 TD.
It wasn't just the running game that paved the way to victory either.
The Purple Hornet defense made the game's first big play when Brandon Kemppainen picked off WIC quarterback Andrew Peterson on the first play of the second quarter. Five plays later and on L'Anse's only completed pass of the game, Jimmy Veker caught a 6-yard pass from Jacob Ostermeyer, leading to an 8-0 lead with 9:16 left in the second quarter.
L'Anse forced a fumble on WIC's next drive, and four plays after that Veker broke loose for a 24-yard rushing touchdown to extend the lead.
After a Wykon three-and-out, L'Anse capitalized again as Cody Goldsworthy capped off a 50-yard drive comprised of all rushing plays with a 6-yard touchdown up the gut, making it 24-0 just 41.6 seconds before halftime.
"We started going a little more outside than up the middle, then when they adjusted to the outside, we went back up the middle again," Leaf said. "We counteracted what they were doing and it seemed to work."
But, out of nowhere, the Wykon offense clicked into gear.
Rushes of 13 and 18 yards and a 27-yard pass play gave WIC a first-and-goal from the 7 with 12.3 seconds left. Two incompletions later and a controversial clock stoppage with 0.3 seconds left allowed Peterson to connect with Brandon Clifford for a touchdown as time expired.
What could have been a huge momentum shift leading into the second half never materialized for the visitors, who punted on the third quarter's first drive. L'Anse's Gavin Picciano upped the score to 32-8 on a 10-yard touchdown run at the end of a 14-play, 94-yard drive that ate 7:23 off the clock.
WIC never surrendered, though, tacking on a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns, one on a Peterson QB keeper from a yard out, and the other a 32-yard Peterson pass to Tyler Stafford after the Wykons had recovered an onside kick.
Trailing just 32-20 with still 9:16 remaining, WIC seemed to retake momentum again, but the Wykons just couldn't stop Goldsworthy and Veker. The backs tallied 135 and 90 yards, respectively.
"I just put my head down and ran the football hard," said Goldsworthy, who hauled the rock 24 times, a week after a 21-carry, 144-yard performance.
But it was Kemppainen, who had notched the game's first big play, who put the finishing touches on the win with a 19-yard touchdown with 5:07 left.
"Every time they did something good we answered," Leaf said. "That's the sign of a good team when you can overcome adversity."
The 2-0 Purple Hornets play their first non-conference game and first road game next Friday at Ontonagon. West Iron (1-1, 0-1 WestPAC) is at home against Iron Mountain the same night.