WAKEFIELD — The Gogebic Miners experienced great fall football weather and excellent fan support in overpowering the Ontonagon Gladiators, 36-20, in a Great Western Conference game on homecoming Saturday.
“It was the seniors’ last game on their home field and they went out with a win,” Miner coach Mark Mazzon said. “For homecoming and some of its distractions, we came out and played very well. We want our players to enjoy homecoming, but their main job is to win the game. Everybody got to play and I’m very happy with our effort and with the blocking. Tom Jackson did a very good job blocking along with Nick Orlich and the other guys across the line. The backs ran hard and our fans were outstanding. We had a huge crowd and we thank them for all their support.”
Gogebic’s overall record is now 5-2 overall and it was a significant win, because the Miners moved one step closer to securing an MHSAA playoff berth for the second year in a row. Six wins qualifies a team for a playoff spot, while five victories makes the playoffs an iffy proposition.
From the start of the season, the Miners have made it clear they wanted to win at least six games and leave nothing to chance. Gogebic’s final two games will be played away at Crystal Falls Forest Park and Ironwood.
And count Ontonagon coach, Dave Linczeski, among those who feel Gogebic has come on as a football team.
“Gogebic looks good,” Linczeski said. “Their line gets off the line-of-scrimmage and their backs run hard. I knew we’d have a hard time with their off-tackle runs. At times we moved the ball and picked up a few points, but it wasn’t enough. Gogebic’s a good team.”
After a three-and-out on Ontonagon’s first series of the game, Gogebic marched downfield methodically on a nine-play, 59-yard drive. All the plays were runs and Jess Mazzon capped it off by running 16-yards through a big hole on the left side. Mazzon also ran in the two-point conversion to put the Miners up 8-0 with 6:19 remaining in the first quarter.
After stopping the Gladiators on two more three-and-out series, Gogebic struck quickly. After Paul Buerger ran his patented trap play for 18-yards, quarterback Ben Zielinski hooked up with Mazzon on a 39-yard scoring pass right down the middle with 37.8 seconds left in the quarter. The conversion run failed, but Gogebic’s lead increased to 14-0.
After a Zielinski interception midway through the second quarter, Gogebic made reservations for six. Starting from their own 31-yard line, the Miners ran Buerger up the middle three times and Zielinski ran option left in which he pitched to Mazzon for a 15-yard pick-up.
Zielinski threw to Kevin Lane on a 10-yard pickup and Buerger finished the drive with a five-yard scoring run with 2:51 remaining. Mazzon’s conversion run put Gogebic up 22-0 at the half.
It was apparent the Gladiators had no answer for Gogebic’s running game. The hard-charging Buerger had 174 of Gogebic’s of 355 total rushing yards and the Miners picked up 21 first downs, most of them on the ground.
Gogebic put the game on ice early in the third quarter when Zielinski found Lane behind the secondary on a 21-yard TD toss. Trent Quade’s conversion run gave Gogebic a 30-0 advantage.
“Ben Zielinski threw some real nice passes today,” Mazzon said.
Ontonagon’s Drew Morris threw for two touchdowns in the second half. He hit David Pollard on a nine-yard scoring pass in the third quarter and threw a 39-yard TD bomb to Tony Soumis with 2:53 left in the game.
Gladiator Noel Jenny also ran for a three-yard score in the fourth quarter after Morris faked a double reverse and took off down the right sideline on a 56-yard gain.
Gogebic’s freshmen and sophomores saw plenty of playing time and running back Caleb Greenough showed good moves and speed and scored a six-yard touchdown at the 11:54 mark of the fourth quarter.
Jason Juno/Daily Globe
ONTONAGON’S DAVID Pollard, left, reaches for a catch as Gogebic Miners' Max France brings him down Saturday at Cardinal Field in Wakefield.
After Buerger’s big afternoon, Mazzon and Greenough rushed for 58 and 45 yards respectively. Quade added 42-yards.
Soumis ran the ball well and picked up 48-yards on 21 carries. His yardage was lessened by sacks, because he acts as a quarterback/running back in Ontonagon’s single-wing offense.
The Miner defense was led by Nick Cossi with 11 tackles and Mazzon with 10.
“Nick Cossi has done an awesome job,” Mazzon said. “He has quickness, determination and runs to the ball. And Austin Hocking took over for a starter today and did a good job on defense.”
Ontonagon (0-7) goes to Hurley on Friday for another conference game.
Gogebic (5-2, 2-2 Great Western) travels to play unbeaten Crystal Falls Forest Park on Friday.