Negaunee, MI – October 18, 2019 – Playoffs?! We’re talking about playoffs? That is exactly what the Negaunee Miners Football team is doing after defeating the Houghton Gremlins 35-0 to clinch a postseason berth. The Miners are back in postseason play after sitting on the outside for the past two seasons. Mark Evans and Gregg Nelson had all of the action from Negaunee on Sunny 101.9.
Negaunee received the opening kickoff from Houghton, and continued its ground and pound game that has led them thus far. Quarterback Jason Waterman took off on a big run within the first few plays, and a personal foul on the Gremlins set up the Miners at the 30-yard line. Running back Nash Hillier and fullback Lukas Nelson also shared the carries, the usual suspects were at display. The Houghton defense stifled down on the next set of downs, forcing Negaunee to a fourth down and one yard to go. Waterman kept the ball himself, and picked up three yards for a first down. After a Negaunee penalty set them back to the 23-yard line of the Gremlins, Waterman got two nice blocks downfield and ran it in for the touchdown. Erik Salminen’s kick was drilled through the uprights, and the Miners led 7-0 early. The beginning of this game felt similar to the past couple of games for Negaunee, as its defense matched the good play of the offense, and forced a three and out. After a nice punt return by wide receiver Alex Munson, Nelson began the drive with a 14-yard run to move the ball into Houghton territory. However on the next play, Waterman’s deep pass to Munson was intercepted by Houghton’s Milo Schaefer. A rare misstep by the Miners gave the football back to the Gremlins. The interception pushed Houghton back deep inside of its own territory, and they had to punt it right back. A poor punt sailed out of bounds at the Houghton 38-yard line, Negaunee had great field position to begins its third drive. The Miners couldn’t get the option game going, as the Houghton defense was all over it. This led to a fourth down incomplete pass by Waterman that gave the ball right back to the Gremlins. Both teams were playing hot potato with the ball and couldn’t get any offense going. Quarterback Tedd Halonen was trying to lead his team down the field, but it didn’t help when his pass was picked off by Waterman two plays later. Waterman returned the ball back into Houghton territory, and the clock winded down to the end the first quarter. The Miners led 7-0 after the opening quarter of play.
End of 1st: Negaunee Miners 7, Houghton Gremlins 0
Negaunee started the second quarter with the ball at the 34-yard line of Houghton, and they were confusing the tough Gremlin defense with different formations. Hillier ran the ball to the Houghton 12-yard line on the next play to set up Negaunee close. The Miners got a break as a penalty on third down by the Gremlins gave them the ball inside of the five-yard line. Nelson carried the Miners to the one-yard line before Waterman finished off the drive with his second rushing touchdown of the game. Salminen tacked on the extra point to extend the lead to 14-0. Houghton was trying to get its running game going with Xander Zapolnik, but the Miners defensive front with the likes of Davin Marshall and Parker Cain were stuffing it up. Negaunee forced another punt, but this the punt was blocked and scooped up by Finn Helppi for a Miners touchdown. A nice special teams play by Negaunee put them comfortably in the lead. Salminen’s extra point was blocked, however the lead was still 20-0. The kick off by Salminen went out of bounds for a penalty, and it gave Houghton good field position at its own 40-yard line. The Gremlins picked up its first first down of the game and advanced the ball inside of Negaunee territory. They couldn’t do much more however, and were forced to punt it back once again. Negaunee was pinned back inside of its own 20-yard line, but that changed when Salminen hauled in a 45-yard pass from Waterman with the clock running under a minute to go in the first half. Salminen got his name back onto the stat-sheet with the big catch, his first catch since the Ishpeming game three weeks ago. The clock wasn’t on Negaunee’s side, all they could do was go out of bounds to stop it from running. With only 20 seconds left in the half, the Miners had a first and goal at the Houghton nine-yard line. They would capitalize on it when Waterman’s pass was caught by Munson for the touchdown. An impressive drive by Negaunee was capped off by Munson catching the two-point conversion pass to make the score 28-0 at the half’s end. Negaunee was in full control, and a playoff berth was only a half away.
Halftime: Negaunee Miners 28, Houghton Gremlins 0
The Gremlins started the second half with the ball, and this game was on repeat as they punted it right back to Negaunee. After only a 22-yard punt into the wind, the Miners had great field position to begin its first second half drive. Hillier was the focus on this drive, as he popped off a big run into the Houghton red-zone. Hillier took the hand-off on the next play and ran the ball inside of the one-yard line to set up first and goal. Negaunee made a big mistake on an option pitch two plays later, where they fumbled and picked it up at the 10-yard line. A seven yard loss made it third and goal for the Miners offense. They scored on the play despite a miscue as Munson caught his second touchdown of the game, and Salminen’s extra point extended the big lead to 35-0. With the running clock going due to the huge deficit, the second half flew by fast. Houghton was trying to get something going, and they advanced the ball into Negaunee territory behind the signal calling of Halonen. Running back Ty Halonen got around the outside and picked up a big first down to move the chains as the third quarter winded down. Negaunee led 35-0 after three quarters.
End of 3rd: Negaunee Miners 35, Houghton Gremlins 0
The Gremlins continued to move the ball, and they were at the Miners’ 15-yard line. The Miners were trying to make a big stand inside of its own territory, and Houghton was faced with a fourth down and one yard to go situation. Negaunee stuffed the Gremlins, and got the ball back after a huge defensive stop. Negaunee’s backups took over on the offensive side for the first time on the night, and they were trying to move the ball late in the game. Quarterback Will Luke even connected with wide receiver Max Churack for a first down grab, it was a complete effort by this Negaunee Miners team. The starters played well and built up a big lead, and the reserve players entered the game and made an impact with a defensive stop. The Miners defeated Houghton 35-0 in a blowout win to clinch its first playoff appearance in three years. It’s time to party like it’s 2016! Your Negaunee Miners are playoff bound once again.
Final Score: Negaunee Miners 35, Houghton Gremlins 0
NEXT GAME: The 6-2 Negaunee Miners Football team wraps up the regular season next weekend against the Westwood Patriots on Friday, Oct. 25. Mark Evans and Gregg Nelson will have the call from West Ishpeming on Sunny 101.9. The Elder Agency pregame show begins at 6:30 p.m., and the game will follow at 7 p.m.