ISHPEMING - There were some very evident differences in the two football programs that faced each other in a Division 7 predistrict playoff game in Ishpeming on Friday night.
Ishpeming appeared in the Division 7 state finals in 2010, whlie Alcona was simply celebrating its first playoff berth in 12 years.
And the differences in experience showed with the host Hematites emerging victorious 40-12.
Courtesy Photo/Marquette Mining Journal
Alcona quarterback Cody Franklin drops back to pass during a Division 7 predistrict football game on Friday at Ishpeming High School. The Hematites defeated Alcona 40-12
"It's obviously a different season come playoff time, with different athletes, a different atmosphere, and different excitement," Ishpeming head coach Jeff Olson said. "It was nice to play a different team rather than the same teams we play during the season within our conference."
Perhaps exploiting the teams' lack of familiarity with each other, Alcona managed to keep the Hematites on their toes despite the clear disadvantage in experience.
"They ran a totally different offense than what we're used to," Olson said. "But I thought our kids responded well ... and I thought they came well prepared."
So prepared, in fact, that they held the Tigers to zero points until well into the third quarter.
Ishpeming led 34-0 at halftime fueled by a pair of Tyrus Millimaki touchdowns in the first quarter, one on an interception return.
"We wanted to come out strong and just get up early in the playoffs so that hopefully we can make a run, if we play like we should," Millimaki said. "We know how it feels to be in this type of atmosphere. It's just more intense in the playoffs."
Seppi Bertucci opened the scoring with a 57-yard touchdown run 5 1/2 minutes into the game, while Millimaki completed the opening 12 minutes of scoring with a 26-yard TD run and 55-yard interception return less than two minutes apart.
IHS quarterback Tyler Windahl scored on a 3-yard run about halfway through the second quarter, while Mid-Peninsula Conference Back of the Year Eric Kostreva rounded out the first-half scoring 3:41 before halftime on a 21-yard run.
Alcona broke through first in the second half when Nathan Fettes scored on a 45-yard run with 8:39 to go, making the score 34-6.
Each team scored in the fourth quarter. Ishpeming got its TD on a 4-yard run by Bobby Zhulkie, while Alcona punched it in with 38 seconds left on a 2-yard run by Eric Hampton.
Ishpeming ran for 256 yards on 43 carries, led by Windahl with 108 yards on 18 rushes. Alcona finished with 145 yards on 41 carries, led by Fettes with 90 yards on 15 tries.
Windahl also completed 3 of 8 passes for 68 yards, while the Tigers were 3 of 6 for 84 yards.
Despite the loss, Alcona's players and coaches remained positive and said they are looking to the future.
"It's a process and everybody knows that," Alcona head coach Dave Schneider said. "We've got a lot to do, and our goal every day is to get better and better.
"We're preaching to our kids and what we're just starting to get them to figure out is that we have to outwork our opponents in the off-season. We've got to get stronger."
Ishpeming remains at home for its next game against another Lower Peninsula team, Mancelona, which is 10-0.
"We've got our work cut out for us," Olson said. "Our kids are ready and looking forward to it."