Prep football: Top-ranked Ishpeming blanks depleted Gwinn in regular-season finale

ISHPEMING – For Gwinn High School, it was the end of a disappointing football season marked by numerous injuries.

For Ishpeming, it was a chance Thursday night to get some work in before state postseason play begins next week.

The Hematites did just that, beating the visiting Modeltowners 46-0 to wrap up the Mid-Peninsula Conference championship.

Mitch Laurin scored twice and quarterback Alex Briones threw a pair of touchdown passes – one to Laurin – as the state Division 7 No. 1-ranked Hematites improved to 9-0 overall and clinched the league title with a 6-0 mark.

“We wanted to stay injury-free, and we did,” Ishpeming head coach Jeff Olson said after the game.

“We also didn’t want to take a step back. We wanted to stay focused and get better.”

The Hematites did that and more. They rolled to a 24-0 first quarter lead and started a running clock with a 40-0 advantage late in the second quarter that was used the rest of the game.

Ishpeming will now wait to hear who its playoff opponent will be next weekend.

“It looks like either Traverse City St. Francis or Mancelona here, depending on what happens with them this weekend,” Olson said.

The Hematites struck early against the injury-ravaged Modeltowners, who had just 16 players dressed – two of them from the junior varsity team.

Laurin intercepted a pass from Gwinn substitute QB Travis Corkin – his first aerial of the season – and ran it back 51 yards for a score just 1:27 into the game.

“The kids were in position (on defense) all night and played hard,” Olson said.

Laurin then caught a 1-yard scoring pass from Briones and Noah Olgren followed with a 25-yard TD reception from the Ishpeming signal caller.

Olson then began substituting players, but the Hematites’ offense didn’t miss a beat.

A 14-yard TD scamper by Bobby Zhulkie and a 50-yard scoring burst by Tyrus Millimaki in the second quarter gave the Hematites the 40-point lead.

“We spread the ball around to a lot of people, so that was good,” Olson said.

Nate Meyer, who led a balanced Ishpeming running attack with 81 yards in four carries on the night, ended the scoring with a 43-yard run in the third quarter.

“It’s the eighth game this season we’ve had a running clock and a lot of our starters only played a half a game,” Olson said.

For the Modeltowners (2-7, 1-6), a promising season that saw coach Darren Sinnaeve’s squad win two of its first three games closed with just half the number of players the team started the season with.

“It’s frustrating, that’s the biggest thing,” Sinnaeve said. “I think if we had everyone, a majority of our team, we were capable of winning five or six games.

“But it didn’t happen and it is what it is. You have to play the game with what you’ve got.”

The coach said of the 12 players scratched from Thursday night’s game, 11 had injuries, including one player who fell during a walk in the woods earlier in the day and hurt his shoulder.

The other Modeltowner missed the game due to a disciplinary matter.

“If we had everybody healthy, it would have been a battle to beat (Ishpeming),” Sinnaeve said. “That’s a great football team over there and a well-oiled team heading into the playoffs.”