HOUGHTON - West Iron County dealt Houghton a big blue-and-white dose of reality Friday.
The Wykons, ranked No. 5 in the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Division 1-7 poll, imposed their will on an upstart Houghton team Friday, rolling to 528 total yards and a 41-12 WestPAC victory.
The Wykons, now 5-0 (3-0 WestPAC), have several multi-year senior starters, while Houghton (3-2, 2-2 WestPAC) has only one senior who entered this season with varsity experience. It made a difference Friday.
Houghton’s Justin Ruotsala struggles in the grasp of West Iron County tacklers after catching a pass on the last play of the first quarter Friday night at Alumni?Field. The Wykons drove home with a 41-12 victory. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"We've got a pretty experienced team. I've had some of these guys for quite a few years with me up on varsity and it shows," WIC coach Mike Berutti said.
The Gremlins held the fort for most of the first quarter, stopping the Wykons on fourth down in Gremlin territory on their first drive and forcing a three-and-out on the second.
The beginning of the end may have come on a second-down play at the Wykon 27. As Ryan Rogers went out for a pass, he appeared to make a move on or make contact with Houghton linebacker Ian Helman. As Helman fell to the turf with a knee injury, Rogers caught Andrew Peterson's pass for a 36-yard gain. Six run plays later, the Wykons were on the board after a 6-yard Peterson touchdown run with just 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
West Iron 6 29 6 0 - 41
Houghton 0 6 0 6 - 12
WIC - Andrew Peterson, 6-yard run (kick failed), :12
WIC - Alec Schmelebeck, 11-yard run (Chasz Jonet run), 8:37
WIC - Peterson, 14-yard run (pass failed), 6:17
WIC - Ryan Rogers, 39-yard run (Peterson run), 3:52
HOU - Thomas Schmidt, 82-yard kickoff return (run failed), 3:37
WIC - Schmelebeck, 4-yard run (Rogers kick), :23
WIC - Jonet, 4-yard run (pass failed), 6:52
HOU - Justin Ruotsala, 5-yard pass from Ben Collaer (run failed), :02
Statistics - First downs - WIC 20, HOU 6; Total offense - WIC 528 (414 rush, 114 pass); HOU 173 (56 rush, 117 pass); Rushing - WIC, Alec Schmelebeck 17-160, Chasz Jonet 12-71, Ryan Rogers 3-51, Brandon Olson 2-43, Nick Helgemo 7-41, Peterson 6-31; HOU, Collaer 13-46, Thomas Schmidt 7-10; Passing - WIC, Peterson 4-8-114; Collaer 9-22-117 1 INT, 1 TD; Receiving - WIC, Rogers 2-75, Schmelebeck 2-39; HOU, Brad Ward 4-80; Justin Ruotsala 3-21 1 TD, Sam Bethancourt 1-16, Cole Jepsen 1-10.
Houghton coach Karl Borree said Helman's injury was important, but that the Gremlins as a group had an off night.
"We didn't play well on offense, we just didn't come out and execute, and they're a good team," he said.
West Iron controlled the line of scrimmage from the get-go, scoring touchdowns on all four of its second-quarter drives.
"We were trying to feel out what they were doing and then we started getting to formations to try to dictate where they were and pick which hole we wanted to run to," Berutti said.
Junior tailback Alec Schmelebeck had two of the TD runs (from 11 and 4 yards out) and had racked up 131 rush yards by the half. At 5-8 and 200 pounds, he along with 5-10, 200-pound senior Chasz Jonet and 6-foot, 170-pound Rogers, dealt the Gremlins a physical blow even after they hit the holes the line created for them. Schmelebeck led the way with 160 yards on 17 carries.
"They come off hard, most of the time those hard runners were five yards deep into our backfield before we put a lick on them," Borree said.
Houghton gained no more than one first down on any of its seven first-half drives, and turned the ball over twice.
The Gremlins' lone first-half bright spot came after the Wykons' fourth touchdown, as Thomas Schmidt recovered from a bobble on the kickoff to take it 82 yards to the house.
Jonet's TD run midway through the third started a running clock, though the Gremlins grabbed a late consolation score, going 98 yards in 17 plays to cross the goal line with two seconds left on a five-yard pass play from Ben Collaer to Justin Ruotsala.
The Wykons kept Collaer under control, holding him to 46 rush yards on 13 attempts and 9-of-22 passing for 117 yards, several of them coming on the last drive.
"I thought we did a nice job putting enough pressure on the quarterback where he had to get rid of it quick," Berutti said.
Peterson ran for two TDs for the Wykons and threw for 114 yards on 4-of-8 attempts.
West Iron hosts Calumet next week, while the Gremlins will try to take the lessons they learned Friday into another tough WestPAC home game against Northland Pines, Wis.
"It's a marathon, as we said at the beginning of the year, it's not a sprint. It's a long season and this is a real good opportunity for a lot of guys to get to play, to get on film, for us to coach them. We're not as good as team as we're going to be at the end. We're going to get better," Borree said.