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Prep football: Ishpeming scores late to beat Lakes 36-34

Hematites score winning TD with 6.9 seconds remaining

Ishpeming’s Otto Swanson (12) scores against Lake Linden-Hubbell on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Lake Linden, Mich. LL-H’s Cole Gregoire (23) and Caleb Gregoire (20) defend on the play. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

LAKE LINDEN — It was only fitting that Ishpeming and Lake Linden-Hubbell would play a classic football game Saturday afternoon.

After all, the Hematites (2-0) and Lakes are two of the most prominent small school programs in the state.

But when the dust cleared at Ron Warner Field, Ishpeming had a 36-34 last-second victory tucked away in a contest of wild momentum swings.

It wasn’t until Ishpeming quarterback John Corkin scrambled into the end zone from three yards away with 6.9 seconds left that the Marquette County crew could take a deep breath.

LL-H (1-1) seemed to have the game won when William Lyons picked up a fumble and raced 93 yards to paydirt with just 2:25 remaining.

Lake Linden-Hubbell’s William Lyons, right, makes a catch against Ishpeming’s Otto Swanson on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Lake Linden, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

“We didn’t feel the game was over at that point,” Hematites head coach George Niemi said. “We told the kids that we just got punched in the mouth, and how are we going to handle that? We knew we had some time and that we were moving the ball.”

Lakes coach Andy Crouch said his squad were “home run hitters (Saturday).”

“We just went up and hit the ball over the fence,” said Crouch, whose team played again without ace quarterback Carter Crouch. “We couldn’t sustain anything against their defense, but we hit some big plays.”

Did they ever.

The Lakes had touchdown runs of 86, 87 and 41 yards in the first half alone as they took a 20-8 halftime lead.

Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Caleb Klein scores on an 86-yard run against Ishpeming on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Lake Linden, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

Niemi said the offensive prowess of the Lakes didn’t surprise him.

“We have a ton of respect for Lake Linden football,” he said. “We saw how well they moved the ball against Norway last week, even without their best player (Carter Crouch). We knew it was going to be a tough afternoon.”

The much bigger Hematites grabbed the early lead late in the first quarter on a 4-yard TD run by 6-foot-2, 230-pound fullback Otto Swanson. Corkin ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 reading.

The Lakes began a string of 20 unanswered points early in the second period when Caleb Klein sprinted 86 yards to paydirt. Quarterback Brandon LaVigne passed to Caleb Gregoire to knot it at 8-8.

Caleb Gregoire stunned the visitors a few minutes later when he got around the end and outran the secondary for an 86-yard score. The 2-point conversion run failed.

Lake Linden-Hubbell wasn’t done yet, scoring later in the second quarter on a 41-yard option run by LaVigne for a 20-8 lead at the half.

The Hematites took advantage of a bad snap over the head of the Lakes punter in the third quarter that ended up on the LL-H 5.

Tommy Sjoblom covered the last four yards for the score and also added the conversion to make it 20-14.

The Lakes got that one back when LaVigne, who had a big day, spiraled a 35-yard TD pass to Lyons. That made it 26-14.

Corkin, who totaled 275 yards on the ground on the day, reeled off scoring plays of 24 and 67 yards to begin the final quarter. That gave the winners a 30-26 lead with 6 minutes left.

“John Corkin brought us back,” Niemi said. “He made some big plays behind some tremendous blocking by our offensive line, which played really well.”

But Lakes fans were very hopeful after the long fumble recovery play by Lyons appeared to have the locals in the driver’s seat.

Crouch liked the tenacity of his team.

“I’m proud as hell of the way our kids battled today,” he said. “I think we’ve responded as well as we could (without Carter Crouch in the lineup). We’ve challenged the kids to step up in the first two games … and they have.”

Ishpeming held a 68-35 edge in total plays.

The Lakes travel to Gwinn on Friday, while the Hematites visit Norway.

Ishpeming 8 0 6 22 — 36

LL-Hubbell 0 20 6 8 — 34

First Quarter

ISH — Swanson 4 run (Corkin run)

Second Quarter

LL-H — C. Klein 87 run (LaVigne pass to C. Gregoire)

LL-H — C. Gregoire 86 run (run failed)

LL-H — LaVigne 41 run (run failed)

Third Quarter

ISH — Sjoblom 4 run (Corkin run)

LL-H — Lyons 35 pass from LaVigne (run failed)

Fourth Quarter

ISH — Corkin 24 run (Sjoblom run)

ISH — Corkin 67 run (Sjoblom run)

LL-H — Lyons 92 fumble recovery (LaVigne run)

ISH — Corkin 3 run (pass failed)

Game Statistics

First downs: Ish. 20, LL-H 6

Rushing: ISH 33-303; LL-H 24-245

Passing: Ish. 1-7-0-25; LL-H 3-6-1-61

RUSHING — Ishpeming, Corkin 37-275; Swanson 17-45; LL-H: Klein 12-109; C. Gregoire 6-90; LaVigne 3-34

RECEIVING — Ishpeming: Romback 1-25; LL-H: Lyons 3-61.

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