The burning questions entering Saturday’s Division 7 championship game at Ford Field were: How many carries would junior running back Jared Smith get and could the Pewamo-Westphalia star single-handedly provide enough offense to beat Ishpeming?
Well, Ishpeming senior quarterback Ozzy Corp exceeded Smith’s carries and the Hematites controlled the ball well enough in the second half to keep Smith on defense as Corp and Ishpeming rallied from a 16-0 deficit to win their third state title in four years with a 22-16 victory.
Ishpeming (13-0) survived two penalties and a fumbled snap for a seven-yard loss on its game-winning drive.
“We like to control the football,” said Corp, who rushed for 128 yards. “Time of possession is a big part of our offense. We like to wear teams down. It worked pretty well in the fourth quarter. We’re a team that knows how to overcome adversity.”
Corp, who finished with 32 carries and three rushing TDs, plowed in from the one with 3:52 left. He also tacked on the two-point conversion run to make it 22-16. He also was the hero on defense, knocking away a fourth-down pass in the end zone to seal the victory.
“In the first half they were winning the line of scrimmage,” said Ishpeming coach Jeff Olson. “You had two teams that liked to do the same thing. I think we did wear them down. I could see them breathing hard in the fourth quarter, definitely on that last drive. We were down 16-0 and we didn’t get frazzled.”
As expected Smith did all the heavy lifting in the Pirates’ first drive. He carried the ball 13 times, but was stopped on a 4th-and-1. He finished with 149 yards on 27 carries.
“We didn’t have an answer in the first half,” said Olson. “We worked on stopping the cutback and he got the cutback. We worked hard on stopping him from getting to the outside and he got to the outside. When he gets one-on-one he’s extremely difficult to tackle.”
The Pirates scored on a 25-yard run by Smith to start the second quarter. Quarterback Jimmy Lehman threw to Bryce Thelen for the two-point conversion.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Pirates struck again, but this time through the air.
With Ishpeming biting on the run, Lehman spotted a wide open Thelen in the secondary and hit him for a 50-yard score with 9:17 left in the first half, covering 61 yards in two plays. Smith’s two-point conversion run gave Pewamo-Westphalia a 16-0 lead.
Ishpeming responded with a drive to the Pirates’ one with Corp carrying the ball eight straight times.
On fourth down, Corp bulldozed in from the one with 2:41 left in the half. The two-point conversion pass failed, leaving the Pirates ahead, 16-6.
Smith’s only first-half miscue was a fumble when he was stripped by Luke Kuliu with Devin Dent recovering with 47 seconds left in the half.
“We had an interception and a fumble and you can’t do that in these games,” said Smith. “We left plays out on the field. We didn’t score on the one-yard line. I had a fumble and we had an interception. We have a lot of talent coming back, so we have to get in the weight room and start working.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.