Hurley completed its toughest part of the schedule with a 3-1 record, recovering fully from a 31-14 loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park two weeks ago with wins at Northland Pines and Friday against Gogebic.
“I’ve really been happy with how we responded after that loss,” said Hurley fullback Mark Saari, who rushed for 232 yards and scored three touchdowns. “It was a really tough one. We made a lot of mistakes. But we really buckled up last week and this week, going really hard in practice, giving everything we’ve got.
“Definitely good to win this one. This is the end of our toughest stretch. Happy to go 3-1 through it.”
The Midgets (5-1) held the Miners (3-2) to just 104 yards of total offense, including 20 yards through the air. Gogebic moved the ball with its aerial assault last week, but the Midgets never let it get off the ground this week. And the stiff south wind could only take limited blame.
“Pass defense was exceptional tonight,” Hurley coach Scott Erickson said. “I know they didn’t get many completions. Our guys were in good spots and we had good pressure on the quarterback and knocked down a bunch of passes. Really pleased with how they played.”
The Midgets rushed for a season high 388 yards on 49 carries despite not having Mitchell Maki, who was out with an injury. Roman Lupino had a season-high 111 yards on 15 carries.
The Miners lost their second straight, trying to fight back from a 16-0 deficit in consecutive weeks.
“We can’t let a team like that get ahead and expect to come back,” Gogebic coach Mark Mazzon said. “Give them credit. They have a good team. We got beat by a better team.”
The game started in Gogebic’s favor as the Miners used 12 plays and 6:06 of the clock to get to the Hurley 24. The Midgets, though, stopped Gogebic for no gain twice when the Miners faced third and fourth down with five yards to go with 5:54 to go in the first quarter.
“Our defense played really good. They gave up that first long drive, but then they anchored in,” Erickson said.
Hurley responded with a scoring drive, and used almost the rest of the quarter to do it.
The Midgets faced fourth down and three at their own 31 and Saari plowed ahead for four yards.
The Miners went three-and-out on their next drive and Hurley took advantage despite getting the ball at its own 6.
The Miners drove to a first down at the 10 and faced third and goal from the same spot. Ben Zielinski threw incomplete to the corner of the end zone on third down and his fourth down pass in the middle also was incomplete. Pass interference wasn’t called on the play, which led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Gogebic’s coach for arguing the no-call.
“We had some openings and made some yards and had some drives going, but then they stalled,” coach Mazzon said.
Hurley ate plenty of third quarter on its ensuing drive but ended up punting. Gogebic didn’t take advantage, going three and out.
The Midgets made it a rout in the fourth quarter. Roman Lupino rushed 22 yards for a touchdown with 9:30 left and Saari scored his third TD of the night, a 52-yard run with 6:41 left.
“The deeper we get into the game and be around the other team, the better off we’ll be able to finish because we wear on teams, I believe,” Erickson said.
Mazzon said stopping Saari was as tough “as (Jarret) Rhenlund has been the last five years. You don’t tackle Saari, you’re done. And he beat us. It’s very simple.”
Saari deflected credit.
“I give all the credit to my blockers,” he said. “I run the best I can. But without them, I’m not getting nothing. They open up the holes nicely for me.”
Paul Buerger led the Miners on the ground with 69 yards on 18 carries. While Gogebic passed for just 20 yards on Zielinski’s 2 for 14 night, Hurley also controlled the Miners’ rushing game, which accumulated 84 yards
“Their defense reads very well and they have quick backs that can cover it,” Mazzon said. “Unfortunately, you have to have a running game in order to pass. We didn’t have that going.”
Saari said, “Pass defense has always been our Achilles’ heel. We worked really hard the last couple weeks in practice with Crystal Falls, Northland Pines and tonight Gogebic to try to iron that out, get the coverage down, get guys on the receivers. I knew we could do it with a little hard work and we got the job done tonight.”
Gogebic goes to Washburn Friday while Hurley travels to Baraga Friday.
Gogebic 0 0 0 0 — 0
Hurley 8 8 0 14 — 30
Hur — Mark Saari 4 run (Saari run), :36
Hur — Saari 83 run (James Sukanen run), 9:35
Hur — Lupino 22 run (pass failed), 9:30
Hur — Saari 52 run (Lupino run), 6:41
First downs 8 17
Rushes-yards 34-84 49-388
Comp-Att-Int 2-14-0 1-5-0
Passing 20 6
Total yards 104 394
Penalties-yards 7-55 7-60
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Rushing — Gogebic, Ben Zielinski 6-minus 7, Jess Mazzon 8-19, Paul Buerger 18-69, Trent Quade 1-0. Hurley, Mark Saari 23-232, Roman Lupino 15-111, Michael Brannigan 5-29, Ronnie Nickel 1-11, Nick Fink 2-5, Jake Tenlen 2-0, James Sukanen 1-0.
Passing — Gogebic, Ben Zielinski 2-14-20-0. Hurley, James Sukanen, 1-5-6-0.
Receiving — Gogebic, Collin Gagnon 1-3, Jess Mazzon 1-17. Hurley, Jared Wendt, 1-6.