IRON?RIVER - An inspired effort wasn't quite enough for the Houghton Gremlins Saturday as they dropped a 26-0 football decision to the West Iron County Wykons.
Houghton appeared to have trouble containing West Iron's outside speed early in this WestPAC matchup.
And the Wykons took advantage of that on their opening drive, gaining a 7-0 lead on Adam Newby's 12-yard run around left end with six minutes, 40 seconds left in the opening frame.
"We had a nice drive early on, which I thought set the tone," said West Iron coach Mike Berutti. "We've been struggling to put points on the board, so it was important for us to score early. Houghton's defensive line is tough, and we knew that coming in. They haven't been giving up a lot of points."
West Iron (3-2 overall, 2-1 league) scored again three minutes later when sophomore Alec Schmelebeck broke to the middle on a quick and tight double reverse, dashing 39 yards for a 14-0 advantage.
Houghton (0-5 overall, 0-4 league) had an excellent scoring opportunity early in the second stanza when the Wykons turned the ball over on downs on their own 36-yard line. The Gremlins then moved the ball inside the 20, but were unable to find the end zone.
Houghton 0 0 0 0 - 0
West Iron 14 6 6 0 - 26
WIC - Adam Newby, 12-yard run (Ryan Rogers kick), 6:40
WIC - Alec Schmelebeck, 39-yard run (Rogers kick), 3:40
WIC - Schmelebeck, 2-yard run (kick failed), 5:15
WIC - Peterson, 2-yard-run (pass failed), 1:42
Total offense - West Iron County 350 yards (291 rushing, 59 passing); Houghton 181 yards (114 rushing, 77 passing)
Rushing - West Iron County (Schmelebeck 20-121, Newby 8-105, Chasz Jonet 6-33, Ron Varney 4-19, Andrew Peterson 5-8, Rogers 1-6, Tyler Capadagli 1-minus-1); Houghton (Zackary Ohtonen 16-65, Alexander Helman 3-22, Noah Budd 3-20, Seth Kaarto 1-7, Ryan LaBerge 1-5, Benjamin Collaer 14-minus-1, Dyson Bastien 1-minus-4).
Passing - West Iron County (Peterson 4-9, 59 yards); Houghton (Collaer 6-16, 77 yards, one interception).
Receiving - West Iron County (Jonet 3-59, Schmelebeck 1-0); Houghton (LeBerge 2-41, Sam Bethancourt 3-20, Ohtonen (1-16).
"We had some opportunities in the first half," said Houghton coach Karl Borree. "But we had a high snap and got tackled behind the line of scrimmage (for a nine-yard loss), which is not a good combination in a Homecoming game against a team that's used to being in the playoffs. West Iron County is a very good team. They played tough, which is what you'd expect from a team of their caliber."
The Wykons responded on their next possession, raising the count to 20-0 when Schmelebeck slipped throught the right side on a two-yard run.
"It was huge having the three-possession lead at halftime with Homecoming and all the other activities that come with it," said Berutti. "We're happy with the way our kids came out and played and appreciate Houghton giving the effort they did. I thought they played with a lot of inspiration, especially in the second half."
West Iron finished the scoring late in the third frame on junior Andrew Peterson's quarterback sneak, set up two plays earlier on Newby's 49-yard jaunt to the Houghton two.
The Wykons collected 350 yards in total offense, including 291 on the ground.
Schmelebeck rushed 20 times for 121 yards and Newby added 105 on eight carries.
Peterson was 4-of-9 passing for 59. Three of his aerials went to junior Chasz Jonet for 59, with the remaining completion to Schmelebeck for no gain.
The Wykons played without senior running back Tyler Stafford, who was out with an arm injury. Senior Cody Carter-DesJardins was forced out of the contest with an ankle injury in the third quarter.
Houghton, starting four sophomores, managed a total of 181 yards against West Iron's nickel defense.
The Gremlins ran for 114 yards, led by senior Zack Ohtonen's 65 in 16 attempts. Sophomore Benjamin Collaer hit 6-of-16 passes for 77 yards and one interception in his first start at QB.
Junior Ryan LeBerge, who normally starts as QB, caught two aerials for 41 yards on this partly sunny and blustery afternoon.
"Our kids never gave up, only we put the ball on the ground too much," said Borree. "Our defense played well at times, only we weren't consistent enough. But at least the kids are starting to believe they can physically play with teams."
The Gremlins travel to Eagle River, Wis. to face league-leading Northland Pines Friday. West Iron visits Calumet Friday.