The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Fast start keys Northland Pines' win over Devils


September 24, 2016

Pat Krause/Daily Globe photo

Ironwood's Nik Merritt pursues Northland Pines' Jordan Decorah during Friday night's West-PAC game at Longyear Field in Ironwood.

IRONWOOD - Northland Pines was looking to get back in the playoff race by improving their 1-4 record. They may not be a playoff caliber team yet, but the Eagles played solidly in defeating Ironwood 24-8 in a West-PAC Conference game at Longyear Field on Friday night.

The win got Eagle coach Matt Weberpal pretty pumped up.

"We've struggled in the first half in a lot of our games this year, but we played real well in the first half tonight and put 24 points on the board," Weberpal said. "We put it together tonight. The guys are motivated for the playoffs, so tonight was do or die. We got off to the 1-4 start, but we're starting to put things together. We've got West Iron County, L'Anse and Houghton left and I think we're right there with them."

Ironwood assistant coach Dave Lundin was inclined to believe the talk that Pines was better than their 1-4 record coming into the game.

"Their defense held Calumet to 14 points," Lundin said.

Head coach Ryan Niemi said the key to the game was that Ironwood could not pick up the Northland Pines' blitzes offensively.

"They were in our backfield more than we were," Niemi said. "But Ian Sackett (line) and Charlie Gotta (line) played well and Nik Merritt (back) really ran hard. Routsy (Nathan Ruotsala) had a decent game."

Ruotsala is somewhat limited by a big cast on his broken arm.

The Red Devils were held to 111 total yards and has no yards passing in the contest.

On Northland Pines second series, Cody Jantzen went through the Ironwood D like a hot knife through butter with four carries for 53 yards. But it was quarterback Ethan Polich who took a direct snap and plowed through the middle of the line for an 8-yard score. Jordan Decorah kicked the extra point and the Eagles led 7-0 at the 2:36 mark.

On the third play of Northland Pines' third drive, Polich dropped back and pump-faked a pass to wide receiver Aaron Ewert. He then lofted a deep pass Ewert, who was brought down 71-yards later at Ironwwod 12-yard line.

As the second quarter started, Jantzen went in from the 2-yard line and Decorah's kick made it 14-0.

Ironwood's Nik Merritt made a nice long kickoff return down the left sideline, but a penalty fizzled out the Red Devil drive and Eric Saltenberger recovered a fumble after a quarter sack.

Pines marched on a 10 play, 49-yard in which Polich ran a quarterback bootleg for 16-yards and and Ironwood was flagged for 11-yard face mask penalty (half-the-distance to the goal). Decorah finished off the drive by barreling in for the score with 1:42 left in the half.

Decorah's conversion run made it 22-0 at halftime.

Northland Pines went up 24-0 when Ironwood's center snapped the ball over the punter's head and the ball was downed in the end zone for a safety.

The Red Devils got on the board with 1:37 left in the game when Conner Wilson ran a nice quarterback sweep for three yards into the south end zone. Josh Joki ran in the conversion to finish the scoring at 24-8.

Weberpal said that despite winning by 16-points, Northland Pines knew they were in a football game.

"Ironwood-they were physical and played hard to the whistle," he said.

Niemi said he thought the defense played better, but the offense was worse.

"We couldn't get anything going-the blitz gave us fits," Niemi said.

Decorah was the top gun rushing-wise in the game with 18 carries for 71-yards. Ian Averitt led Ironwood's rushing attack with 9 attempts for 32-yards.

The game was plagued by penalties with Houghton committing 11 penalties for 80 and Ironwood had five infractions for 56-yards.

Northland Pines (2-4) will host Houghton in West-PAC action on Friday.

The Red Devils (0-5) will take on L'Anse in another conference on Friday at 6 p.m. CDT.

Northland Pines 8 14 0 2 - 24

Ironwood 0 0 0 8 - 8

First Quarter

NP - Ethan Polich 8 run (Jordan Decorah kick)

NP - Cody Jantzen 2 run (Decorah kick)

Second Quarter

NP - Jordan Decorah 3 run (Decorah Run)

Third Quarter

No scoring

Fourth Quarter

NP - Fumbled snap recovered in end zone

Iwd - Conner Wilson 3 run (Josh Joki run) NP Iwd

First downs 14 7

Rushes-yards 44-157 34-111

Comp-Att-Int 5-8-0 0-5-0

Passing yards 130 0

Total yards 287 111

Penalties-yards 11-80 5-56

Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1

Individual statistics

Rushing - Northland Pines, Cody Jantzen10-41, Jordan Decorah18-71, Ethan Polich 9-32, Nick Blaedow 1-minus 3, Foster Hakes 6-minus 21. Ironwood, Nik Merritt 6-24, Nathan Ruotsala 6-27, Ian Averitt 9-32, Parker Wilson 10-17, Josh Joki 3-11.

Passing - Nothland Pines, Ethan Polich 5-8-0. Ironwood, Parker Wilson 0-5-0.

Receiving - Northland Pines, Tucker Wittkopf 1-2, Jordan Decorah 1-13, Cody Jantzen 2-44, Aaron Ewert 1-71.


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