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      Grief-stricken Ishpeming brings home a championship

      Football is more than a game for those in the Ishpeming community. Lately, it's been a sanctuary.

      Two former football players died within the last 18 months, shocking this community in the Upper Peninsula.

      Derrick Briones, the older brother of current quarterback Alex, died in 2011. And in July, Daniel Olson, the son of coach Jeff Olson, committed suicide a couple of weeks before the start of football practice.

      Fans attending the Division 7 title game Saturday at Ford Field carried a large sign with pictures of both Derrick Briones and Daniel Olson, in game action photos, with the words, "Do it for Daniel and Derrick," written in blue with a white backdrop.

      "We've been through some tough times," Olson said. "(The players) are like family to me.

      "This is a close-knit community. I didn't know how this year would go. I didn't know how I would handle it. It really was a relief. I knew I felt comfortable out here."

      Ishpeming's 20-14 upset victory over Detroit Loyola was as much as a reward for the team's hard work as it was for the community's support and compassion for those whose lives are forever changed by these tragic events.

      "Everybody said we were the underdogs today," Olson said. "They're used to it. They're used to adversity."

      Ishpeming overcame adversity in the semifinals. It made a goal line stand and intercepted two passes inside its 25 in the fourth quarter and held off Pewamo-Westphalia, 8-7.

      Ishpeming trailed Loyola, 14-12, before Eric Kostreva ran three yards for the winning score.

      "We're a hard-nosed football team," Briones said. "We don't take any prisoners. We wanted this for coach. We don't care what they say."