Let one get away

Ishpeming’s Drake Sundberg, front right, is pursued by Gladstone’s, from right to left, Cole Hansen, Darin Johnsons and Alex Chouinard during their game Friday evening September 22, 2017 in Ishpeming, MI. (Journal Photo by Corey Kelly)

Dominant with the stats, mistakes cost Hematites in 20-8 loss to Gladstone

By RYAN STIEG Journal Sports Writer ISHPEMING — During every football season, it seems like most teams will have a loss that got away. For Ishpeming, that game happened Friday night against Gladstone as the Hematites basically beat themselves. Ishpeming held the undefeated Braves (4-0) to only one first down and, except for one play, negative rushing yards, but the Hematites committed four costly turnovers and were handed a 20-8 loss. “We outplayed them,” Ishpeming head coach Jeff Olson said. “We held them to only 62 yards and 80 or so yards came on one play. “We were in their backfield all night long and they only completed two passes and one was for like 80 yards. So we gave up two plays and we fumbled the ball. “We’d consistently move the ball into their territory and then either fumble or commit a penalty. That’s how this year has gone for us, but I can’t fault the effort out of our guys. They played hard all game. “The thing now is that we can’t hang our heads. We played a great football game and lost. So we just have to regroup, forget about this game and learn from our mistakes.” For Gladstone, it was just another game where it came up with some big plays, which seems to be becoming routine. “Once we made some adjustments, we just tried to stay stout and play tough defense,” Braves head coach Jeff Hansen said. “We forced turnovers and got good field position. I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be a shootout. It was going to be a long, tough ride. “It’s not easy to come out here and win, but I’m proud of my guys for playing tough all the way through.” Ishpeming struck first midway through the first quarter. The Hematites used their power running game to pound the ball downfield and Drake Sundberg capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. The ensuing 2-point conversion was no good and Ishpeming led 6-0 after one quarter. Sundberg finished with 129 yards on 30 carries. The Hematites had a chance to pad their lead in the second quarter, but after bringing the ball deep into Gladstone territory, they fumbled and the Braves quickly took advantage. After accomplishing virtually nothing offensively at that point on the ground, Gladstone took to the air and found success. Quarterback Darin Johnson connected with Spencer Husbye down the far sideline for an 82-yard TD pass and the Braves were back in it. The extra point was no good to tie it 6-6. Ishpeming went on another long drive on its next possession and seemed to be on its way to another score, but QB Donald Denofre was picked off just before halftime and the game stayed tied. Mistakes continued to plague the Hematites in the second half. After sacking Johnson on back-to-back plays to force a punt, Ishpeming moved into the Gladstone red zone where it promptly fumbled the ball away. Just three plays later, Johnson made the Hematites pay for that mistake as he broke free down the far sideline for an 89-yard touchdown run to give Gladstone the lead. The extra point was no good and the Braves led 12-6. “We have an explosive offense and we knew that they were going to pack it in on us,” Hansen said. “So we just stuck with our process and we knew that those kind of plays were going to happen at some point.” Late in the third quarter, Ishpeming caught a break. When Gladstone lined up to punt, the snap sailed high and rolled toward the end zone. One of the Braves recovered it, but he stepped out of the back line to give the Hematites a safety and Ishpeming trailed 12-8 heading to the fourth. However, that’s when the Hematites made another crucial mistake that put the game away for Gladstone. Ishpeming fumbled a punt and the ball rolled all the way to the Hematites 1-yard line where the Braves recovered it. On the next play, Gladstone running back Owen Hansen plowed into the end zone to nail down the victory. It can be an adjustment switching conferences, but it hasn’t fazed Gladstone one bit. “This year, we’re facing teams that we’re not familiar with and there’s a lot of firsts for us,” Hansen said. “The important thing for us was to just keep things simple and play from down to down and fundamental. We just look at one game at a time and it’s worked well. “We just need to stay hungry and continue to build momentum. With each win, we gain confidence and we just need to continue to challenge ourselves every week.” Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.