It's been a bumpy road for the Ishpeming Hematites. But with all the challenges they have endured, it's brought the team together, leading them to their recent victory as 2012 Division 7 State Champs.
"It's taught us to deal with tragedy, how to overcome obstacles in life and work past them; be stronger people in the end," said Joey Lyle.
Soon after their 2010 State Championship loss, the team lost one of their own, former wide receiver Derrick Briones. His brother, Alex Briones, QB/DB for the Hematites, says Derrick was with him through it all.
"It just gave me a lot of motivation to keep going, work hard and make him proud and my family proud," said Briones.
Then, they were hit again. This time by the Michigan High School Athletic Association, who was trying to stop Eric Dompierre from playing his senior year because he's older.
His father, Dean, challenged the MHSAA's rule barring anyone over 18 from playing high school sports.
"I put two years worth of effort into this. I've made a lot of connections with people. I thought, you know, even though it's not probably going to work for Eric, at least maybe I could do something for the kids that are coming behind Eric," said Dean Dompierre.
Tragedy hit the team again in July with Coach Olson's son's death. Daniel was the team's former quarterback.
"He even talked to me probably two months before he passed away. He said, 'I really want you to win one,' and he told me that. I have to believe the way things fell this year that he was up there giving us a little push," said Jeff Olson, team coach.
Over the summer, Eric Kostreva transferred from Marquette Senior High School to play football at Ishpeming.
Kostreva (RB/DB) says it was the best decision he's made in his life and is extremely glad Coach Olson gave him the opportunity to play. He now plays under number 11, which was Daniel Olson's number.
"My dad and I, we went up and asked Coach Olson if I could represent his number. Coach Olson said, 'Heck yes, you can and you'll represent it very well.' I was very glad he said that because I wanted to represent Daniel very well," said Kostreva.
Finally, good news in August as the MHSAA approved the petition allowing Eric Dompierre to play sports his senior year. >>Eric says it's a decision that's changed his life, allowing him to not only play along his team, but his friends.
"Because I can play, and it feels good that we won the state game, and it would probably be sad if I did not play," said Dompierre.
However, the story doesn't end there. After all the team has been through, they won the Division 7 State Championship against Detroit Loyola this past Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit.