NEGAUNEE - Zane Radloff made his third touchdown reception of the season something special Friday night.
The 6-foot-4 Negaunee High School junior made a leaping touchdown catch late in the second quarter to help give the Miners a 14-0 halftime edge over visiting Iron Mountain.
NHS junior running back Tyler LaJoie and the Miners' ball-hawking defense took care of the rest in a 20-0 victory over the visiting Mountaineers in Division 6, Region 1, predistrict playoff action.
Negaunee's Tanner Uren runs an option play as Iron Mountain's Matt Willman defends during the third quarter in Negaunee on Friday. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
LaJoie scored twice on runs of 65 and 5 yards, while the NHS defenders intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble.
NHS will next entertain Calumet at 7 p.m. Friday in the district finale. The Copper Kings clobbered Manistique, 45-0, Friday night.
"We're just happy we're playing another week," Miners' head coach Paul Jacobson said after his team improved to 9-1 on the season.
Radloff is a big reason why. He made a one-handed catch of a pass from quarterback Tanner Uren between two IM defenders in the end zone with 3:54 left in the half to put Negaunee up by 14 points at intermission.
"(The Mountaineers) started moving a safety over, so I knew I would be double-covered (on the play)," Radloff said.
"(The defenders) were holding my left arm down, so I knew the only way I'd catch it was one-handed with my right.
"(The ball) just stuck to my hand," he added. "I knew I was deep enough (in the end zone), but I still can't believe it happened."
Jacobson said he wasn't surprised at Radloff's catch.
"He's capable. He's a very good athlete," the coach said. "It was a great catch."
Mountaineers head coach Robin Marttila said his defense couldn't have been much better on the play.
"What can you do? You can't do anything else defensively," he said. "(Radloff) was double-teammed on the play. Give the kid credit."
Not long after, the Mountaineers (5-5) mounted a late second-quarter drive behind 10- and 11-yard passes from QB Zach Jacobs that ended with an interception in the end zone by Negaunee's Brock Weaver as the horn sounded.
"Iron Mountain had some momentum there," Jacobson said. "That (interception) was a key because we knew they would begin the second half with the ball."
LaJoie, who finished with 138 yards rushing on 13 attempts, put the icing on the Miners' cake when he scooted five yards on a fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line for the score that made it 20-0 with 9:49 left.
LaJoie had scored on the third offensive play of the game when he took a pitch from Uren, followed blockers Dustin Goupille and Andrew Katona, and streaked down the right sideline for his first TD of the night.
"They just executed the play," Marttila said. "We knew LaJoie was a great football player and he made a great run."
Radloff said the TD gave the Miners an early boost.
"That really sparked us," he said. "It gave us energy right away and kept us going throughout the game."
The Miners limited standout Mountaineers running back Paul Brooks to just 54 yards on 18 carries.
They also got interceptions from Adam Francis and Katona, as well as a fumble recovery by Nolan Bergstrom.
"We wished we would have played better," Marttila said. "Negaunee has a good football team ... but we couldn't get much going offensively.
"Turnovers hurt us tremendously. Any time you turn the ball over four times, it's not going to be pretty.
"But I'm proud of my team," he added. "They gave everything they had. There were a lot of tears after the game and that's OK, because it meant something."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.