NEGAUNEE - Even with star running back Tyler LaJoie missing much of the game with a shin bruise, the Negaunee High School football team easily qualified for the MHSAA state playoff tournament Friday night.
Tyler Windahl more than made up for LaJoie's absence as the Miners rolled to a 53-0 mercy win over Mid-Peninsula Conference foe Norway.
By raising their overall record to 6-0, the Miners gained an automatic postseason berth for the second straight season and fourth time in five years.
Negaunee High School senior Austin Caya runs the ball down field for a touchdown during the third quarter against Norway on Friday at Miners Field in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"It's a tremendous accomplishment for the team," NHS head coach Paul Jacobson said. "They've worked hard to get to this point."
The win sets up a clash of unbeaten teams next Friday as the Miners travel to Ishpeming to meet their M-PC co-leaders.
"I'm looking forward to it," Jacobson said. "Games like this are why you play and coach. I'm expecting a great game."
Negaunee 53, Norway 0
Score by quarters:
Norway 0 0 0 0 - 0
Negaunee14 20 19 0 - 53
Negaunee - Tyler Jandron, 22 pass from Ryan Syrjala (run fails), 8:14
Negaunee - Tyler LaJoie, 9 run (Zane Radloff pass from Syrjala), 2:10
Negaunee - Tyler Windahl, 50 run (run fails), 11:11
Negaunee - Syrjala, 1 run (Tyler Jandron kick), 6:16
Negaunee - Tyler Windahl, 26 run (Jandron kick), 2:57
Negaunee - Austin Caya, 59 run (Jandron kick), 11:41
Negaunee - Tyler Windahl, 82 run (kick no good), 6:27
Negaunee - Jesse Godfrey, 65 run (run fails, knee), :28
First downs - Norway, 5; Negaunee, 13
Rushes-yards - Norway, 24-83 (Jordan Neumann, 15-94); Negaunee, 29-400 (Tyler Windahl, 10-188)
Comp-Att-Int-Yards - Norway, Taylor Bonetti, 4-17-0-74; Negaunee, Ryan Syrjala, 2-7-0-45
Windahl rushed 10 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on runs of 50, 26 and 82 yards.
"It's my most yards ever," the 6-0, 190-pound senior said. "There's no better time to do it than on Homecoming, too.
"We came into the game feeling good and the (offensive) line was phenomenal."
Negaunee quarterback Ryan Syrjala passed for one touchdown - a 22-yard aerial to Tyler Jandron - and ran for another on a 1-yard streak.
Austin Caya added a 59-yard scoring burst and Jesse Godfrey ran 65 yards for a late third quarter TD as the Miners set up a running clock with 11:41 left in the third quarter.
The M-PC's leading rusher overall with 673 yards (12.9) and 12 touchdowns heading into the night, LaJoie ran for 65 yards on five carries and scored on a nine-yard run before being forced to the bench.
"We missed (LaJoie's) presence," Windahl said of the back's injury late in the first quarter. "But we're a solid team that doesn't rely on one player."
Norway head coach said his Knights (2-4, 1-2) were no match for the Miners from the get-go.
"They're bigger, stronger, more physical and faster (than we are)," he said of the Miners. "They're also well-disciplined and well-coached.
"We're a struggling football team right now. Even though it was 53-0, the kids were still going hard. I'm proud of my kids because they didn't quit."
Negaunee's defense held the Knights to just 33 yards of offense in the first half as the Miners raced to a 34-0 advantage at intermission.