By John Vrancic
Special to the Record-Eagle
ISHPEMING — Mancelona's post-season venture ran into a road block Saturday as it dropped a 32-0 football decision to the Ishpeming Hematites in a Division 7 district final.
Ishpeming, often stacking the box with seven defenders, limited the Ironmen to 83 yards in total offense on this cloudy and chilly afternoon at the Ishpeming playgrounds.
"They're a good ball club," Mancelona coach Dan Derrer said of the Hematites (10-1), who host Lake City (10-1) in next weekend's regional final. "They very disciplined and well coached. We knew what they were going to do and worked all week on that in practice. Yet, we had trouble recognizing their formations. We have no excuses. They just tackled better than we blocked."
Mancelona's offense, which went three and out on its first possession, seldom moved the ball into Ishpeming territory in this match-up.
"We saw them on film and knew they were run-oriented," said Ishpeming assistant coach Scott Syrjala. "We knew we had to get as many guys into the box as we could. Yet, we also wanted to respect the pass. You're always nervous during the first possession. Then, our kids stopped them right away and I think that set the tone."
Ishpeming took a 6-0 lead on its opening possession on Eric Kostreva's 24-yard run around left end.
The senior running back, however, was forced out of the contest with an ankle injury midway through the opening stanza.
Ishpeming proved it had enough depth to overcome that as junior Bobby Zhulkie scored on a one-yard run through the middle for a 14-0 advantage just 26 seconds into the second quarter.
The count reached 20-0 with 2:07 left in the second frame on Alex Briones' quarterback sneak, a touchdown set up three plays earlier on Briones' 29-yard aerial to freshman end Ozzy Corp at the Mancelona eight.
After forcing the Ironmen to again go three and out, Ishpeming gained possession on a short punt at Mancelona's 45.
Briones, a junior quarterback, then completed three consecutive passes, with the last one going 13 yards to Corp for a 26-0 cushion just 62 seconds before halftime.
The Hematites finished the scoring early in the third frame on Zhulkie's 15-yard run through the right side.
"It's very disppointed to lose in the district final because this group worked so hard to get to this point," said Derrer. "We thought this would be the group to get us over the top."
The Ironmen, managing just four first downs all afternoon, were led by senior running back Wyatt Derrer who ran 11 times for 58 yards.
Senior QB Kyle Schepperley was 0-for-5 passing with two interceptions.
Ishpeming, running out of the I-formation, had 196 yards rushing. Zhulkie led the way with 66 on 13 carries.
Brionnes hit 4-of-6 passes for 77 yards and a TD on a muddy field.
"I thought we played very well," said Syrjala. "Mitch Laurin came in and did a great job after Eric hurt his ankle."
The contest was marred midway through the third quarter when tempers flared and a bench-clearing brawl broke out, resulted in the ejection plus a game disqualification to Ishpeming senior lineman Brad Wootke.