Calumet, MI – November 13, 2020 – It was the game of the year for the Negaunee Miners Football team, winning the District Championship 20-19 over the Calumet Copper Kings in an instant classic. Gerald Johnson completed a touchdown pass to Eli Luokkala on fourth down with 2:39 left for the game-winning score and the Miners’ first District title since 2013. Mark Evans and Gregg Nelson had the call from Calumet on Sunny 101.9.
The hosting Copper Kings received the ball first, and started the game’s opening drive at their own 36-yard line. Calumet came out running the ball against Negaunee’s defense, and Paul Sturos picked up multiple first downs crossing into Miners territory. Sturos and Dryden Nelson kept the ball for the Copper Kings, and the opening possession marched inside of the Negaunee 20-yard line. On the next play, Sturos kept the ball once again and took it 17 yards for the touchdown. Tom Erikkila nailed the extra point, and Calumet led 7-0 with 5:16 left in the first quarter on an impressive drive. The Miners were forced to answer back, and the run game of Lukas Nelson and Niko Lukkarinen took priority for Negaunee. Much like Calumet’s drive, the Miners ran the ball exclusively and were picking up big chunks of yardage. Lukas Nelson took most of the workload of the drive, and capped it off with a 16-yard touchdown run. Philip Nelson’s extra point hit the upright and was no good, and Negaunee trailed 7-6 as the opening period came to an end.
End of 1st: Calumet Copper Kings 7, Negaunee Miners 6
The Copper Kings’ second drive of the game was looking just as good as the first with a pass from Sturos to Dean Loukus across midfield to the Negaunee 38-yard line. Calumet was taking a lot of time on the clock with its drives, and after picking up nine yards, were faced with fourth-and-one at the 29-yard line. On that fourth down play, Erkkila took the handoff and was stopped well short of the first down by a host of Negaunee Miners for a turnover on downs. The Miners forced a big stop and the running game of Lukas Nelson continued to wear and tear on the Calumet defense, picking up multiple first downs. After another run by Lukas Nelson into Calumet territory, a holding penalty was called on the Negaunee offense, setting up first-and-20. After picking a few yards, Gerald Johnson completed a pass to Philip Nelson on third down for 36 yards all the way down to the Calumet 20-yard line. Lukas Nelson took care of the rest on a few more carries, and punched it in from one-yard out for the touchdown with 1:28 left in the first half. The Miners went for the two-point conversion, and got it with a run from Lukas Nelson once again to give Negaunee a 14-7 lead. The Copper Kings didn’t have much time to go down the field and score, but they were connecting on completions and getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Dryden Nelson moved the sticks a couple of times, but Negaunee caught a big break as Sturo’s pass to a wide opne Carter Kilpela was over his head and incomplete. After another first down at the Negaunee 25-yard line, Sturos spiked the ball to stop clock with 16 seconds remaining in the first half. One play later, Sturos avoided the Negaunee pass rush and found an open Dean Loukus in the endzone for the touchdown with four seconds left. However, Erkkila’s kick missed wide, and the Miners went into halftime holding a 14-13 lead.
Halftime: Negaunee Miners 14, Calumet Copper Kings 13
Negaunee received the ball to start the second half, and couldn’t do much with it and had to punt it right back to Calumet. The Copper Kings started with great field position right at midfield, and took advantage of the short field. Sturos led the charge on the majority of the carries, and a big run set up Calumet with first and goal. On second and goal, Dryden Nelson scored the two-yard touchdown, giving the lead back to Calumet. The two-point conversion was no good, and the Copper Kings led 19-14 with 5:17 left in the third. A third down Johnson run was stuffed short on the Miners’ next drive, and the ball was punted a second straight time back to Calumet after only three plays. The Copper Kings were driving down the field as the third quarter winded down, and the Miners trailed by five.
End of 3rd: Calumet Copper Kings 19, Negaunee Miners 14
After multiple carries from Sturos and Dryden Nelson, Calumet was forced to complete a fourth-and-three at the Negaunee 25-yard line. They never had to, as Negaunee jumped offsides, giving the Copper Kings an automatic first down. Shortly after, the Miners defense made up for it by forcing Sturos to fumble, and Preston Toutant recovered for Negaunee. Lukas Nelson picked up Negaunee’s first conversion of the second half for a first down, and the returning Will Luke ran a long way on his first carry down to the Calumet 22-yard line. The next two plays for Negaunee didn’t go anywhere, and they were set up in a poor spot with third-and-10 at the Calumet 22-yard line. Johnson’s pass on that third down was complete to Eli Luokkala for the first down at the 12-yard line with five minutes left. The next two plays for Negaunee once again didn’t go far, and the Miners had another third and long to convert. With the third-and-12 at the 14-yard line facing them, Lukas Nelson ran the ball to the eight-yard line, setting up fourth-and-six with under three minutes left. Johnson found his main target Luokkala again, this time for the eight-yard touchdown to take the lead. The Miners’ two-point conversion was no good, but they led 20-19 with 2:39 remaining in the game. The Copper Kings had three plays that only mustered four yards, but converted a fourth down pass to Kilpela down to the Negaunee 38-yard line with under two minutes left. Three plays later on third down, Dryden Nelson ran the ball and barely picked up the first down after a measurement, but the clock continued to move to under one minute remaining. After an incompletion in the endzone on third down, the game came down to a fourth-and-eight at the Negaunee 26-yard line with 21 seconds left. Sturos’ pass was complete, but was short of the sticks and the Miners’ defense held for a turnover on downs. Johnson kneeled down to run down the final seconds, and the Negaunee Miners won its first District Championship since 2013 with a 20-19 win over the Calumet Copper Kings.
Final Score: Negaunee Miners 20, Calumet Copper Kings 19
NEXT GAME: The Negaunee Miners Football team moves on to the quarterfinals in the MHSAA Division 6 Playoffs where they will clash with the winner of Grayling-Boyne City for the Regional title! The game date and time are to be determined, but you’ll hear Mark Evans and Gregg Nelson with the call on Sunny 101.9.