West Ishpeming, MI – November 6, 2020 – After avenging a regular season loss to Gladstone last week, the Negaunee Miners Football team traveled to Westwood and won handily 42-14 to move on to the District Finals! The Miners had to forfeit the regular season match-up with the Patriots due to COVID-19, but they’ve responded with two consecutive playoff wins. Mark Evans and Gregg Nelson had the call in West Ishpeming on Sunny 101.9.
Negaunee had the ball to start the game at its own 41-yard line, but the run game of Lukas Nelson and Nash Hillier was shut down by the Patriots. After creating a three-and-out, Westwood started its first drive at its own 21-yard line. Down the field they went, led by Garrett Mann and Zachary Carlson. Spending nearly six minutes of the opening quarter on the long possession, Westwood was forced with a third-and-six at the Negaunee 14-yard line. On the third down play, Mann’s pass into the endzone was picked off by Negaunee’s Brenten Belanger. Belanger fell out of the endzone and gave the ball to the Miners at its own one-yard line with a long way to go, but the defense held Westwood to zero points after an effective drive. Faced with 99 yards to go for the touchdown, the Miners had a tall task on its hands. Going with the backfield trio of Gerald Johnson, Lukas Nelson and Hillier, Negaunee was marching. After converting a few first downs, Johnson found Eli Luokkala deep for a 50-yard touchdown grab with four seconds left in the first, and the Miners took a 7-0 lead with Philip Nelson nailing the extra point. Things only got worse for the Patriots when they couldn’t handle Luokkala’s kickoff, and Matt Skewis recovered for Negaunee. The Miners forced an interception, went 99 yards on the next drive and recovered the ensuing kickoff; things were coming together after one quarter of play.
End of 1st: Negaunee Miners 7, Westwood Patriots 0
Starting with great field position at the Westwood 26-yard line after the kickoff recovery, Negaunee made the Patriots pay. Lukas Nelson handled the bulk of the carries on the drive before Hillier picked up a first down inside of the Westwood 10-yard line. A couple of plays later, Lukas Nelson was rewarded with the touchdown run. Philip Nelson made the extra point, and the Miners extended the lead to 14-0 with 8:53 left in the second quarter. The Patriots found themselves in a hole, and on the next drive, Mann threw another interception. Philip Nelson intercepted it for the Miners and returned it to the Westwood 22-yard line. Hillier finished the drive off with a five-yard touchdown run with the short field, and Philip Nelson’s extra point stretched the lead to 21-0 with 3:38 left in the half. On the ensuing kickoff, the Patriots found life with a 62-yard touchdown return by Travis Uren. Mann scored the two-point conversion, cutting the deficit to 21-8. Both teams had short possessions in the final minutes, and Negaunee led Westwood by 13 going into halftime.
Halftime: Negaunee Miners 21, Westwood Patriots 8
Westwood began the second half with the football, but after a fumbled snap, Negaunee recovered with more great field position at the Patriots’ 23-yard line. The Miners for a third time scored after a Westwood gift, and it was Hillier once again for his third touchdown. Philip Nelson’s kick the upright no good, but Negaunee led 27-8 with 10:33 left in the third. The Patriots were running out of options, and the Miners stopped them on an option play for a turnover on downs on the next possession. Hillier kept up his big day, scoring from 28-yards out for his fourth touchdown of the game. After a penalty, the Miners converted an 18-yard two-point conversion pass to make it 35-8. The Patriots were on its last gasp, but Mann took a big run down to the one-yard line. On the next play, Mann punched it in, but Negaunee still led 35-14 after the failed two-point conversion. On the Miners’ next possession, Hillier fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Westwood. The Patriots connected on a big play down to the three-yard line, and were trying to cut the deficit once more as the third quarter came to an end.
End of 3rd: Negaunee Miners 35, Westwood Patriots 14
Down to the three-yard line isn’t necessarily a guaranteed touchdown, and the Negaunee defense proved it by stopping the Patriots on four straight plays from getting into the endzone. The huge stand by the Miners put Westwood on the ropes, and a three-and-out ticked away some clock and left the Patriots with less than nine minutes left. Westwood needed a score to stay alive, but a turnover on downs gave the ball back to Negaunee. All but over, Lukas Nelson took the handoff all the way for a 55-yard touchdown on the first play, and shut the door on the Westwood Patriots. In a dominant performance, the Miners advanced to its first District Finals game since 2016 with a 42-14 victory over Westwood.
Final Score: Negaunee Miners 42, Westwood Patriots 14
NEXT GAME: The Negaunee Miners Football team goes on to the District Final, where it faces a familiar foe in the Calumet Copper Kings! Mark Evans and Gregg Nelson will be up in Calumet with the call on Sunny 101.9, and will be on the air 30 minutes before the to be announced kickoff time with the Elder Agency Pregame Show. Go Miners!