Detroit, MI – November 25, 2022 – For just the fourth time in school history, the Negaunee Miners made it to the MHSAA Division 6 Championship Game. They’ve gone undefeated through the regular and post season, and now find themselves against the Grand Rapids West Catholic Falcons. Mark Evans and Greg Nelson were on the call live from Ford Field on Sunny 101.9!
Q1: Grand Rapids scored quickly with a 73 yard touchdown from Ethan Droski to Carter Perry out of the backfield on just the first play from scrimmage. The Miners stuck with their running attack from Nico Lukkarinen and Kai Lacar to move the chains. Phillip Nelson was able to reel in a pass to move the Miners into Falcon territory. However, Grand Rapids’ defense played tough and forced the punt from the Miners on fourth down.
The Falcons fielded the punt and ran a reverse to get a big return into Negaunee territory. Negaunee’s defense looked to turn things on and play tough after a first down incomplete pass. Grand Rapids showed off their speed and were able to pick up the first down to keep their drive alive. The Miner defense was able to turn things around and force a fumble from Tim Kloska recovered by Phillip Nelson.
Negaunee had to capitalize on the turnover and turn it into points. The Miners continued with their inside and off tackle runs pounding away at the Falcon defensive front.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 7 – Negaunee 0
Q2: The Miners start the second quarter with a fourth and short scenario after failing to force the Grand Rapids team to jump offside before the end of the first quarter. Negaunee pulled out a quick hitting run with Ty Jacobson to gain the first down. Faced with another fourth down attempt Negaunee was able to convert again with a strong two yard run from Kai Lacar. The Falcon defense was prepared for the third fourth down attempt of the drive. Grand Rapids met Lacar at the line of scrimmage and forced a turnover on downs.
The Falcons started on their own 46 yard line, and took to the air on first down met with good coverage by linebacker Ryan Reno for an incomplete pass. The Miner defense stayed tough to not give up the big play against this no huddle offense. Grand Rapids now was faced with a fourth down, and it was able to convert and led to a touchdown. Carter Perry able to get his second touchdown grab of the game for the Falcons to build their lead.
Negaunee needed to score before the end of the second half, but found themselves in a key third down scenario. A quick slant from Ty Jacobson to Phillip Nelson picked up the first down for the Miners. Grand Rapids continued to show off their speed as they were able to plug up the Negaunee running lanes effectively. The Miners pulled out a flea flicker and completed a pass to Eli VanBuren down to the Falcon 13 yard line.
Kai Lacar stretched a run outside to convert another fourth down, and giving Negaunee a fresh set of downs on the Falcon two yard line. As the final seconds of the half reeled off, Negaunee was able to find the endzone as time expired. Nelson reeled in a jump ball and kicked the PAT to put the Miners on the board before the half.
Halftime: Grand Rapids West Catholic 14 – Negaunee 7
Q3: The Negaunee Miners started the second half behind on the scoreboard, but received the kickoff fresh off a touchdown. Phillip Nelson opened with a 93 yard kick return to the house. He followed it with the PAT to even up the score. The Falcons tried a misdirection play that was sniffed out well by the Miner defense. Grand Rapids was now faced with a third down situation and answered with a touchdown from Tim Kloska.
Negaunee then found themselves fighting from behind once again starting at their own 24 yard line. The Miners went three and out and forced to kick away to the Falcons. From the first play on the drive Andrew McAlary found paydirt on a 68 yard reception, the PAT was good to put the Falcons up two scores. The Miners had some miscommunication in the backfield that led to a third and long. Ty Jacobson’s pass was just out of reach of the intended receiver, and Negaunee punted away.
Grand Rapids opened up with yet another strong run from Kloska bringing them to the Negaunee 15 yard line. The Falcons had the Negaunee defense on their heels backed up against their goal line. The Miner defense wouldn’t go down quietly with a big play from Eli VanBuren. The Falcons were forced to attempt a 31 yard field goal which split the uprights, and put Grand Rapids West Catholic up 17 points.
The Miners special teams struggled as they bobbled the kick and started at their own seven yard line. Chase Bonovets provided a fresh set of legs for Negaunee to gain nine yards on his first carry of the game. Grand Rapids defense then was able to force a Negaunee turnover by recovering a fumble in the backfield. The Falcons then cashed in on a 16 yard touchdown run from Kloska the very next play.
Negaunee then went four and out unable to get going on their drive. The Grand Rapids defense had great timing against Negaunee as they tired to move the ball inside. The Falcons opened with another big pass to McAlary to put them in the redzone. Negaunee’s defense never let up as they continued to deliver big hits to the Falcon backfield. Grand Rapids would yet again find the endzone with Kloska bringing the score to, 45-14.
Grand Rapids sent the ball away to Negaunee, and the Miners looked to bridge the gap as the third quarter ticked away. Negaunee took to the skies but weren’t able to find any connections going three and out and punted away as the quarter came to an end.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 45 – Negaunee 14
Q4: The Falcons opened up the final minutes of the season with the ball, and fresh off a 31 point third quarter. Andrew McAlary had a carry to open up the Grand Rapids drive. They stayed on the ground with Kloska and broke free for another Falcon touchdown to start the running clock in the final quarter. The Miner offense took the field for what could be the final time of the season. Negaunee stayed with Nico Lukkarinen and Kai Lacar keeping things on the ground, but couldn’t move the chains forced to turn the ball over on downs.
Grand Rapids West Catholic would also stay on the ground and shuffle in their number two players as they run down the clock. They did however score once more with Elliot Zainea finding the endzone to close things out.
FINAL: Grand Rapids West Catholic 59 – Negaunee 14
The Negaunee Miners end their magical season with a final record of 13-1. Congratulations to all of the players and coaches this year who accomplished this feat and made it all the way to the end. A big thank you to all of the continued supporters of Negaunee high school sports!