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The last few times Calumet and Negaunee tangled on the field, they were tight, low-scoring games.
Friday’s contest started out that way with the Copper Kings holding a slim lead at halftime, but then Calumet ignited in the second half and emerged with a 30-6 victory.
Even thought the final score made the game appear like a blowout, Kings head coach John Croze didn’t think so.
“It was a tight one all the way through,” he said. “I think they had a couple key injuries there and I think we had a couple of our athletes make some big plays for us and spread that score out for us in the second half. It was nice to get a little cushion because a win like this on Negaunee’s field doesn’t happen very often.
“They’re so well coached and they play us so hard. Just hats off to our kids for coming in with a great attitude and playing hard from first play to last play.”
For Negaunee, its bad luck continued as it fell to 0-2 on the season and had two of its key players, Drew DuShane and Eric Etelamaki, go down with injuries.
“It was advertised as what you’d expect in the first half,” Miners head coach Paul Jacobson said. “We went in 14-6 and even though we were down two of our playmakers in Drew and Eric, and we lost Bryce Jarvi last week. Three seniors that have been with us for three years. It’s tough.
“We had a lot of fight and determination out of our guys tonight and they fought right till the end and I’m proud of those guys that did that. Calumet’s a good football team and they found a way to win.”
Calumet (2-0) struck first late in the first quarter as Jayden Gariepy plunged into the end zone from six yards out to put the Kings up 6-0. The conversion failed and Calumet took that lead into the second quarter.
Negaunee answered back though as the Miners used their running game to power their way downfield. After a costly Calumet penalty, Lucas Nelson rumbled 41 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked and the score stayed 6-6.
Midway through the second quarter, Calumet picked off a Negaunee pass and slowly drove the ball upfield before Gariepy picked up his second touchdown, this time from four yards out. The Kings got the conversion this time and took a 14-6 advantage.
The Miners had a good chance to answer before halftime as they had the ball on the Calumet 30-yard line, but Negaunee was stopped on fourth down.
Needing to start the second half hot, Negaunee again used its running game to move the ball deep into Kings territory, but again, the Calumet defense stiffened and stopped the Miners on fourth down.
After that, it was all Kings. Calumet got a 22-yard touchdown run from Dryden Nelson to take a 22-6 lead into the fourth quarter. Later with 9:13 remaining in the game, Nelson broke a tackle near the Kings sideline and scampered 77 yards for a touchdown to cap off the win.
“We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves,” Croze said. “You’ve got to be happy with 2-0, but we’re just going to celebrate for about 24 hours here because we’ve got another tough one down in Marquette County next week at Westwood.
“The way the West PAC is right now, no week is easy and you’ve got to gear up every week. This year is looking pretty much the same as last year in terms of the competition level. It’s awesome.”