Ishpeming overcomes slow start, beats Pewamo-Westphalia for third D-7 title in four years
Detroit – As Ishpeming prepared for its fourth consecutive Division 7 championship game, it knew that in order to win its third title, it would have to stop Pewamo-Westphalia’s Jared Smith.
And much like the 13 teams tasked with stopping the junior running back, the Hematites saw Smith have plenty of success as the Pirates jumped out to a 16-0 lead early in the second quarter.
But from there, Ishpeming’s best defense became its offense.
Ishpeming used long, time consuming drives to keep the Pewamo-Westphalia offense off the field, wearing down the Pirate defense as the Hematites earned a 22-16 win for its third state title in four years.
Ishpeming coach Jeff Olson said that the long drives to keep the ball out of Smith’s hands was key to his team erasing the early two score deficit.
“You watched him in the first half and we didn’t have an answer,” he said. “We worked hard on stopping the cutback and he got the cut back, then we started working on keeping him from getting to the outside and he got to the outside. When he gets one-on-one, he’s extremely difficult to tackle.
“So if you can keep it out of his hands, his numbers speak for itself, it got a little scary in the first half when we couldn’t control the ball, we were getting three and outs and they. So for us to do it in the third and fourth quarter, what we wanted to do, wear them down a little bit, was a credit to our kids.”
But in the second half, it was Ishpeming’s star quarterback, Ozzy Corp, who couldn’t be contained.
Trailing by 16 in the second quarter, the Ishpeming offense would use over six minutes of time to drive 70 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Corp to cut the deficit to 16-6 just before halftime. Corp would then cap off another scoring drive of almost six minutes with a 4-yard touchdown run to cut Pewamo-Westphalia’s lead to 16-14 on the first drive of the third quarter.
Olson said that he felt his team’s experience of playing at Ford Field in the previous three seasons helped his team keep its composure throughout the game.
“You look at Ozzy and Thomas (Finegan) and some of our other kids, this is their 20th playoff game,” he said. “You can only play 20 of them in your career, they’ve been here four times, they know what it’s like in the lights. They know the routine the day before, the morning of and I really think that plays a big part because they weren’t phased by anything.”
The Hematites then saved their best drive for last, driving the ball 61 yards in 14 and running 7:53 of time off the clock before Corp would score his third touchdown of the game to give Ishpeming its first lead of the game, 22-16 with 3:52 remaining.
Corp said that Ishpeming has been a second half team all season long and the Hematites proved that once again on Saturday.
“We’re a second half team,” he said. “In the fourth quarter, we get tired, but we know how to fight through it. I feel like that’s our advantage, we’re a second half team. That last drive was just our strong point.”
Corp finished the game with 132 yards rushing on 32 carries three touchdowns and also threw for 77 yards as well for Ishpeming.
After the Pirates drove down inside the Ishpeming 40-yard line, the Hematites forced a fourth down and a pass into the end zone was broken up by Corp with under 40 seconds to play to seal the win.
“I knew they were going deep or to the end zone,” Corp said. “I don’t know how I got over there or how I got up to get the ball either, but somehow I got over there and I tipped it away and ended the game.”
Pewamo-Westphalia’s first touchdown of the first half came on a 25-yard run by Smith, and the Pirates then pushed the score to 16-0 early in the second quarter on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Lehman to Bryce Thelen.
Smith finished the game with 149 yards rushing and a touchdown and finishes the season with over 3,100 yards rushing and 53 touchdowns, both are new state records.
Pewamo-Westphalia coach Jeremy Miller said that the long drives that Ishpeming put together in the second half were a lot like his team’s scoring drives in the first half.
“I feel like we did that to them in the first half,” he said. “Then they turned around and turned the tables on us in the second half and did the same thing back to us, so it was the tale of two halfs in that sense and we couldn’t get off the field in the second half.