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Midgets survive L'Anse upset bid, qualify for playoffs


September 24, 2016

Jason Juno/Daily Globe

Hurley defensive tackle Mitchell Hissa, left, celebrates a tackle for loss in the fourth quarter with a friendling push from teammate Tandrell Foster during the fourth quarter of Friday night's West-PAC game at L'Anse. The fourth down play came on 4th and 1 and Hissa dropped the L'Anse player for a loss of two, and the play essentially sealed the game for Hurley.

L'ANSE - Hurley defensive tackle Mitchell Hissa felt a lot better in the second half when he switched from drinking water that didn't agree with him to Gatorade.

Everybody on the Hurley sideline felt better in the second half as the Midgets averted L'Anse's upset attempt by keeping the Hornets off the board after the break.

The Midgets defeated the Purple Hornets 40-20 and qualified for the WIAA playoffs for the 19th consecutive year.

Hurley trailed much of the first half and entered halftime down 20-12 as L'Anse scored a touchdown with no time on the clock.

But the Purple Hornets turned it over on downs on its first four second-half possessions and Hurley scored touchdowns on two of its first three plays in the third quarter to take control of the game.

"First half, a lot of us weren't really ready. The bus ride here got us knocked down. We finally overcame that and got the win," said Hissa, who said he was sick from the water in the first half, but picked up a key sack and a tackle for a loss on fourth down in the second half.

It was the first real road trip of the year for the Midgets (5-1), who spent four of their first five weeks at home with the other game in Ironwood. A two-hour bus ride was new to Hurley this season.

"We told this to the kids, we thought we were sleepwalking in the first half," Hurley coach Scott Erickson said. "Our guys didn't come off the bus tonight, but they definitely answered in the second half. Proud of the way they bounced back, but they've got to understand they have to be ready to go all the time."

Hurley qualified for the playoffs by ensuring it will finish with a record over .500 in its first year in the West-PAC. The Midgets are 4-1 in the conference with games at home against Hancock next week and at Houghton in week 9 remaining.

"I tell you what it feels good," Erickson said. "I'm happy for these kids. They earned it, the hard way, a lot of unknowns in the new conference and they've answered the bell in every game."

They had to answer it Friday against a winless L'Anse team that gave Hurley all it wanted.

"We didn't look like an 0-5 team tonight," L'Anse coach Mark Leaf said. "I think we proved to ourselves we can play with anybody. We played well tonight. I think this is a good shot of confidence for our kids."

It appeared as though Hurley could escape a lackluster first half down just 14-12, but as time expired, quarterback Kooper Jahfetson found Chase Parker for a 33-yard touchdown and it was a 20-12 deficit instead.

"They hit the long passes and we didn't tackle well in their sweep game," Erickson said.

Jahfetson was elusive from Hurley's pressure and had a strong arm, finishing with 210 passing yards. It was a good first half for an athletic L'Anse team.

"I thought we came out fast, we got off to a good start," Leaf said. "We had good balance on offense, we were mixing up the run and the pass. We played a great first half."

The Midgets, though, responded to the adversity after halftime.

On their second play of the half, Kris Bluse broke free for a 56-yard touchdown run. The conversion failed and Hurley still trailed 20-18.

The Purple Hornets were still able to move the ball on the ensuing possession, but their drive stalled at the Hurley 15, where they threw three straight incompletions, including on fourth down when Bluse made a good play on the pass, after being dropped for a five-yard loss by Ryley Eitrem on first and goal at the 9.

"Even in the second half, we had some opportunities," Leaf said. "Hat's off to Hurley, they're a heck of a football team."

Two plays into Hurley's next drive, the Midgets' Devin Czerneski went 85 yards for a touchdown to put Hurley ahead. He put his hand down early in the run but had no problems finding the end zone after that. The conversion failed, but Hurley led 24-20.

The Purple Hornets tried to retake the lead, working the ball into the red zone, but Jahfetson's fourth-down pass was incomplete as Buerger batted it away.

Hurley scored again on its next possession, this time a 17-yard run by Buerger. His conversion run made it 32-20 Hurley.

L'Anse faced fourth and 1 on its own 40 with one more chance to make a game of it. Mitchell Hissa dropped Foster Miller, who led L'Anse in rushing, for a two-yard loss. That play really brought the Hurley sideline to life as it looked like the Midgets had the game wrapped up.

Hurley added another score after it took possession as Isaac DeCarlo ran 10 yards into the end zone. Bluse's two-point run made it 40-20 Hurley.

The Midgets were playing defense most of the first half but were able to make big plays in the second half offensively. They had 15 rushes for 86 yards in the first half and 14 rushes for 216 yards in the second half.

They also held Jahfetson to three second-half completions, compared to the eight he got in the first half.

L'Anse marched to the Hurley 29 on its first possession but came up short. It got the ball right back, though, as Jonny Cote recovered a fumble on Hurley's second play and scored on a one-yard run by Jahfetson,.

Hurley answered as Tim Buerger ran three yards for a TD.

L'Anse struck again early in the second quarter to take a 14-6 lead, but Hurley answered again. A 27-yard pass from DeCarlo to Bluse on third and 24 kept the drive alive and Buerger scored from four yards out.

It was 14-12 L'Anse until the Purple Hornets scored at the buzzer to lead 20-12 at halftime and Hurley took the momentum in a big way in a third quarter it outscored L'Anse 12-0 and then pulled away with a 16-0 advantage in the fourth quarter.

Hurley (5-1, 4-1) hosts Hancock next week.

Hurley 6 6 12 16 - 40

L'Anse 6 14 0 0 - 20

First Quarter

L'Anse – Kooper Jahfetson 1 run (pass failed), 5:03

Hur – Tim Buerger 3 run (run failed), 1:20

Second Quarter

L'Anse – Aaron Collins 1 run (Foster Miller run), 9:20

Hur – Buerger 4 run (run failed), 5:00

L'Anse – Chase Parker 34 pass from Jahfetson (run failed), :00

Third Quarter

Hur – Kris Bluse 56 run (pass failed),11:01

Hur – Devin Czerneski 85 run (pass failed), 6:31

Fourth Quarter

Hur – Buerger 17 run (Buerger run), 11:54

Hur – Isaac DeCarlo 10 run (Bluse run), 8:28

Hur L'Anse

First downs 13 14

Rushes-yards 29-302 43-144

Comp-Att-Int 3-5-0 11-24-0

Passing 90 210

Total yards 392 354

Penalties-yards 1-15 6-49

Fumbles-lost 3-1 0-0

Individual statistics

Rushing --- Hurley, Devin Czerneski 10-131, Kris Bluse 8-106, Tim Buerger 8-53, Isaac DeCarlo 5-13, Scott Subert 2-0, Josh Quello 1-minus 1. L'Anse, Foster Miller 20-69, Chase Parker 5-33, Aaron Collins 5-21, Jonny Cote 2-14, Dylan Harden 2-6, Kooper Jahfetson 8-minus 2.

Passing --- Hurley, Isaac DeCarlo 3-5-90-0. L'Anse, Kooper Jahfetson, 11-24-210-0.

Receiving --- Hurley, Kris Bluse 1-27, Ryley Eitrem 1-33, Scott Subert 1-30. L'Anse, Chase Parker 5-103, Logan Fish 5-101, Brandt Tembreull 1-6.


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