CALUMET - Calumet football has made a name for itself on the ground, but when the outcome was up in the air Thursday, the visiting Negaunee Miners flew away with it.
A 17-yard fade pass from Tanner Uren to Brock Weaver was all that separated the Miners from the Copper Kings in a 12-6 decision at Agassiz Field.
"It was just a toss-up game. They ended up the ball in their hands at the end with decent field position and did what they needed and won the game - made a big play in the end zone," Calumet coach John Croze said.
Negaunee’s Dustin Goupille (6) takes a hit from Calumet’s Noah Kariniemi on Thursday night during the Miners’ 12-6 victory over the Copper Kings at Agassiz Field. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Brandon?Veale)
Calumet, now 0-2, found this one sickeningly familiar to last Friday's home loss to Eagle River (Wis.) Northland Pines: take the halftime lead, lock horns in a close game throughout, then suffer defeat on a late scoring drive.
Uren, a third-year starter who had already scored a touchdown with his feet to tie the game in the third quarter, hung the ball high for the 6-foot-7 Weaver. The Kings had defenders on the scene, but none within four inches of Weaver's height. His catch gave the Miners (2-0) their first lead of the game with 2:15 to play.
"He can just go up and get it. We've been working on it all the time and it finally came through in the game for us when we needed it," Uren said.
Unlike last week, Calumet did have a chance at a last-ditch drive, but after two incomplete passes, James Sturos threw the third to the Miners' Kevin O'Keefe and the visitors ran out the clock.
The game turned against Calumet for good midway through the fourth quarter: The Kings fumbled on third-and-4 from the Miner 22, and though the visitors got just one first down, it and a stiff wind at their backs helped stick Calumet on its own 20 with about five minutes left. Calumet gained only 20 yards before it had to kick into the wind. A seven-yard punt set the Miners up for what was the decisive drive on the Calumet 47, with Uren hitting Weaver on just the third play.
"(Weaver)'s hard to match up with, and these guys put the time in during the offseason. They worked hard and they got their just rewards tonight," Miner coach Paul Jacobson said.
The brief nature of the winning drive was unusual for two teams that grind it out offensively, and the rest of Thursday's game had much of that.
The Miners put together a 19-play, 70-yard march for no points in the first half after Calumet held firm on its 12, then surrendered a 13-play, 89-yard campaign going the other way until Sturos dove in from two yards out with 2:19 until the half.
Negaunee finally got its breakthrough after the half, as Uren cut an option keeper up the hash marks for a 38-yard game-tying TD run on the first possession.
"My teammates had great blocking for me. I had one cutback. It was a perfectly blocked, perfectly executed play and I found my way to the end zone," Uren said.
Uren finished with 47 yards on six carries and completed 7-of-15 attempts for 64 yards and the TD. Weaver caught four balls for 43 yards. Dustin Goupille was the Miners' leading rusher with 75 yards on 18 attempts.
The Miners have their home opener next Friday against Gladstone.