IRONWOOD — Ironwood came as close as it possibly could to winning its first game but fell to Hancock, 28-26, in overtime in an exciting West-PAC game on Friday night.
“I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” Hancock coach Matt Walter said. “Every time I come here it’s tough and a very close game. We’ve lost two games on two-point conversions, so it was good to finally win one the same way. But I think losing on those two-point conversions taught us to keep fighting no matter what and we did that today.
“Ironwood sure didn’t play like an 0-7 team. They were as physical or more physical than the teams we’ve played. They should get all the credit in the world.”
“We came back twice and showed our character and that we’re fighters,” Niemi said. “Everybody came to play today. The team didn’t quit and they are starting to believe in themselves. We’re working hard and we’ve got it right to the edge. There should be no more doubting that we can and will win.”
With Hancock ahead 20-12 with 1:48 left in the game, Adam Mackey went back to pass and just as he was being hit, lofted a pass towards 6-3, 210 pound Taylor Killam. The Hancock defender broke on the ball but barely missed making a deflection or interception. Killam caught the ball instead and sprinted to the north end zone for a 48-yard score.
The crowd went wild, but Ironwood still trailed 20-18 and needed a two-point conversion. Mackey rolled to his right and fired a completed pass to Jared Sobolewski in the end zone.
The Red Devils came back to tie the game at 20-20 and overtime was the next order of business.
Hancock barely scored on a fourth-and-inches quarterback sneak over the top by Tanner Kearly to go up 28-20.
That put the pressure on the Red Devils.
Ironwood faced a fourth down and 10 yards desperate situation. In a smart move, the Devils decided to put the ball in the hands of its best player. Mackey rolled right again and once again found a diving Sobolewski in the end zone for six points. But the conversion pass by Mackey was incomplete and Hancock escaped with a win, while Ironwood stayed winless.
But this time Ironwood played a game it really felt good about. It was apparent this game would be different when Denver Sharrow took the opening kickoff, veered left and tip-toed down the left sideline, scoring on an 82-yard touchdown run.
“There was great blocking and I was barely touched,” Sharrow said. “When I caught the ball, I thought I was going all the way.”
The extra-point kick failed, but the Devils led 12 seconds into the game.
Ironwood held that lead until Hancock matriculated downfield on a 13-play, 53-yard drive and at the 1:18 mark of the second quarter, Kearly found Carl Kangas on a six-yard slant pass for a score. Missing the extra point, it was 6-6 at the half.
Ironwood’s second possession of the third quarter started on the Bulldog 40-yard line and Mackey ran option right for 18 yards. Brody Stefonich ran the fullback trap play for 19-yards and Mackey capped off the drive with a five-yard TD toss to Jake DiGiorgio. The conversion pass failed, but the Red Devils led 12-8 at the 3:56 mark.
Ironwood had been giving up about 40 points per game but only yielded six points by the end of the third quarter.
“And we hadn’t been burned in pass coverage,” Niemi said. “Our defense held up well today.”
But in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs struck for two fourth-quarter scores. With 5:52 left in the game, Kearly zipped another TD pass to Kangas, this time from 12 yards out. On the conversion, Kearly was forced to scramble and an Ironwood player had him by the left arm and was pulling him towards the ground. Kearly threw the ball up and Chase Anderson came down with it in the end zone.
With two points less at the end of the game, the Bulldogs may not have been playing in overtime.
On the kickoff, Hancock took a chance on an onside kick, which it recovered. Two plays later Brandon Barnes broke off left tackle and scampered 40 yards for a score with 4:22 left. The extra point kick was blocked, but Hancock had a 20-12 advantage.
Barnes was a workhorse the whole game with 193-yards on 30 carries.
“Brandon is a real hard runner,” Walter said. “He’s a very good athlete and can play any position.”
But Ironwood fought back with the Mackey to Killam pass and came very close to pulling out that elusive first win.
Mackey led the Red Devil rushing attack with 70 yards on 12 carries and Stefonich had 56 yards on 11 attempts. Sophomore Shane Buckley added 47 yards on nine rushes.
Mackey led the defense with eight solo tackles and six assists with a pass deflection. Killam, who has come out of nowhere to become a big-play football player, made two solo tackles, 11 assists and had two sacks. Sharrow came up from the secondary to make four solo tackles and six assists with a pass deflection.
The Red Devils (0-7, 0-5 West-PAC) travel to Calumet for another conference game on Friday with kickoff at 6 p.m. CDT.
Hancock 0 6 0 14 8 — 28
Ironwood 6 0 6 8 6 — 26
Iwd — Denver Sharrow 82 kick-off return (kick failed), 11:48
Han — Carl Kangas 6 pass from Tanner Kearly (kick failed), 1:18
Iwd — Jake DiGiorgio 5 pass from Adam Mackey (pass failed), 3:56
Han — Kangas 12 pass from Kearly (Chase Anderson pass from Kearly), 5:24
Han — Brandon Barnes 40 run (kick blocked), 4:22
Iwd — Taylor Killam 49 pass from Mackey (Jared Sobolewski pass from Mackey), 1:48
Han — Kearly 1 run (Brandon Barnes run)
Iwd — Jared Sobolewski 10 pass from Mackey (pass failed)
First downs 13 10
Rushes-yards 43-197 39-191
Comp-Att-Int 10-27-1 4-12-0
Passing yards 146 73
Total yards 343 264
Penalties-yards 2-25 5-35
Rushing — Hancock, Brandon Barnes 30-193, Jake Fenton 4-1, William Lucier 1-0, Tanner Kearly 8-3. Ironwood, Adam Mackey 12-70, Brody Stefonich 11-56, Denver Sharrow 7-18, Shane Buckley 9-47.
Passing — Hancock, Tanner Kearly 10-27-146-1. Ironwood, Adam Mackey 4-12-73-0.
Receiving — Ironwood, Jake DiGiorgio 1-5, Jared Sobolewski 1-10, Zach Combs 1-6, Taylor Killum 1-52.