Grayling, MI – January 9, 2021 – The Negaunee Miners Football team returned to MHSAA Division 6 playoff action after a near two-month delay, falling in the Regional title game to Grayling, 56-26. Vikings running back David Millikin presented many problems for the Negaunee defense, rushing for five touchdowns, and the Miners’ season comes to an end after winning its first District title since 2013. Mark Evans and Gregg Nelson had the call live from Grayling on Sunny 101.9.
The Miners kicked the ball off to Grayling to begin quarterfinal action, and the Vikings started its first possession at its own 40-yard line. Running back David Millikin was handling the workload for Grayling, and the all-state back showed his skill. On the third play of the game after two impressive runs, Millikin went the distance from 37 yards to put Grayling on the board first. Eliot Boik’s extra point was good, and the Vikings quickly led 7-0. Negaunee looked to respond on its first drive, but an illegal procedure set them behind the chains. On third-and-eight, quarterback Gerald Johnson and running back Nash Hillier botched the pitch exchange, and that forced a Miners’ punt. Grayling took over with good field position again, and Millikin continued to run wild on the Negaunee defense. After picking up a first down on fourth-and-six, Millikin ran the ball down to the Miners’ three-yard line. He went on to punch it in for the three-yard touchdown on the next play, and the Vikings were up 14-0 with 4:20 to play in the opening quarter. The Miners needed an answer to Grayling’s high-powered rushing attack, and they began to get one with a Johnson run into Grayling territory. Hillier and fullback Lukas Nelson led the charge, and Negaunee marched inside of the Grayling 15-yard line as the first quarter came to an end.
End of 1st: Grayling Vikings 14, Negaunee Miners 0
The impressive drive for Negaunee bled into the second quarter, and Hillier ran down to the one-yard line before his backfield mate Nelson scored for the Miners’ touchdown. Philip Nelson’s extra point was no good, and the Miners trailed 14-6. Negaunee forced a three-and-out on defense, but the Vikings faked the punt and ran across midfield for the first down. In a huge turn of events, Millikin broke multiple tackles on the next play for a 43-yard touchdown run. Boik’s kick was good, and the Vikings led 21-6 when it appeared that the Miners were getting the ball back only down eight. Negaunee’s offense continued its momentum on the next drive, where Johnson found his tight end Eli Luokkala for a big first down completion. The drive continued, and the Miners found the endzone from 11 yards out for the touchdown. Negaunee failed on the two-point conversion attempt, and faced a 21-12 deficit. Grayling began to drive down the field to extend its lead, but a jump ball into the endzone was knocked down by the Miners on fourth down. Negaunee got a big stop on defense, and had 2:31 on the clock to score. The Miners were gaining yardage behind the legs of Hillier and Nelson, but were forced to punt in the final seconds of the half.
Halftime: Grayling Vikings 21, Negaunee Miners 12
Negaunee started the third quarter with the football, but couldn’t do much with it before punting it right back to Grayling. Millikin continued his good game running the ball, marching the Vikings down the field. It was then the passing game that extended Grayling’s lead when quarterback Hunter Ventline found wide receiver Drew Kanary for the touchdown from 23 yards. Boik nailed the extra point, and the Vikings led 28-12 with 6:27 left in the third. The Miners looked to be in trouble, but only needed a couple of scores to tie it up. Faced with a fourth-and-one near midfield, Nelson was stuffed short, giving the ball back to Grayling. The Vikings looked to close the door on the Miners, and Millikin scored for the fourth time soon afterwards. Boik missed the kick, but Grayling led 34-12 over Negaunee at the end of the third quarter.
End of 3rd: Grayling Vikings 34, Negaunee Miners 12
The Miners had another fourth down to stay in the game, but Johnson’s pass to Luokkala was knocked down incomplete. Grayling took over on downs with a 22-point lead, effectively ending the game for good. The Vikings kept pounding its run game and capped off the drive with a Ventline 11-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 41-12. Negaunee didn’t give up and stuck with their good running game of Hillier and Nelson. The Miners ended the drive finding the endzone with a 13-yard pass from Johnson to Luokkala. Philip Nelson’s extra point was good, and Negaunee trailed 41-19 with seven minutes left. A short kickoff gave Grayling good field position, and Millikin made the Miners pay again, this time scoring for the fifth time from 52 yards out. Both teams traded scores in the final six minutes, and Grayling came out victorious with a Regional title win, 56-26 behind Millikin’s monster game of five touchdowns. The season comes to an end for the Miners after winning its first District title in seven years.
Final Score: Grayling Vikings 56, Negaunee Miners 26