DIMONDALE – Nate Jandernoa considers himself like most boys that grow up in the Pewamo-Westphalia school district.
He dreamed of adding to the athletic success of a community that loves its sports. And he wanted to be a part of it on the football field.
“This has always been like a dream and every boys’ dream around back home and the community,” Jandernoa said. “We all dream about going to states and winning. It’s always been a dream.”
It’s a dream that Jandernoa had even before he began playing football in sixth grade. And the Pewamo-Westphalia senior fullback/linebacker has a chance to be part of history Saturday morning at Ford Field when the No. 4-ranked Pirates (13-0) face No. 2 Ishpeming (12-0) in the Division 7 state championship game. A win over Ishpeming would give P-W its first state football title. And that’s something Jandernoa knows would mean a lot to the community.
“When you see the team that went to state before — all those guys are like celebrities,” Jandernoa said. “They didn’t win, but they got to states and they were the first team to do it. If we were the first team to win states, the community and everything — they’d have a lot of pride in us.”
If P-W is to make history Saturday, Jandernoa will likely have a big role. He’s been one of the most valuable players for the Pirates and also a bit unsung. Jandernoa has been a primary blocker and helped pave the way for the record-setting fall by junior tailback Jared Smith, who last week became the first player to surpass 3,000 rushing yards in a season and also recently set the state mark for rushing TDs.
Jandernoa has also been a key part of a P-W defense that has allowed just nine points a game and registered three shutouts, including blanking defending state champion Detroit Loyola in last week’s semifinal. The 5-foot-11, 230-pound Jandernoa was the CMAC’s defensive MVP this fall and P-W coach Jeremy Miller said the third-year varsity player has blossomed into his role.
“He’s a tackling machine, he clogs the middle really well and he’s strong and built like a linebacker should be,” Miller said. “He’s just really hard to block and reads things well. He’s not afraid to put his body out there and have some collisions. Those are kind of the things that came together and have made him such an effective player for us.”
The Pirates will need Jandernoa to do those things Saturday against Ishpeming, which is after its third state title in four years. Ishpeming, like P-W, also likes to run the ball.
“More than anything he’s going to have to be a tough physical presence for us because that’s the kind of football that they play,” Miller said. “Our middle linebacker has to lead us and he’s got to play physical and got to play fast and take on the blockers and make the tackles.”
Contact Brian Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.
Pewamo-Westphalia vs. Ishpeming
When: 10 a.m.
Where: Ford Field
TV: Fox Sports Detroit