NEGAUNEE - Asked what his team's game plan was heading into Saturday's MHSAA pre-district Division 6 playoff game against visiting Indian River Inland Lakes, Negaunee High School head football coach Paul Jacobson broke into a smile.
"Score a lot of points and not give your opponent any," he joked after the contest.
His Miners followed that plan perfectly.
Negaunee running back Tyler LaJoie runs the ball in for a touchdown during the first quarter of an MHSAA Division 6 pre-district playoff game against Indian River Inland Lakes on Saturday at Miners Field in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Scoring 28 points in the first quarter and opening the second half with a mercy rule running clock, NHS rolled to a 51-0 victory over the Bulldogs.
Quarterback Ryan Syrjala threw three touchdown passes and scored on a sneak, and Tyler LaJoie added two TDs - one a 70-yard interception return for the Miners (9-1).
Negaunee will next host Boyne City - a 27-6 winner over Elk Rapids on Friday night - for the district title at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Superior Dome.
Negaunee 51, Inland Lakes 0
Score by quarters:
IR Inland Lakes 0 000 - 0
Negaunee281670 - 51
Negaunee - Tyler LaJoie, 11 run (run fails), 8:23
Negaunee - Zane Radloff, 54 pass from Ryan Syrjala (LaJoie run), 4:10
Negaunee - Tyler Jandron, 15 pass from Syrjala (LaJoie run), 2:05
Negaunee - LaJoie, 70 interception return (pass fails), 15.8
Negaunee - Tyler Windahl, 5 run (Jandron pass from Syrjala), 8:45
Negaunee - Jandron, 18 pass from Syrjala, (Windahl run), 2:31
Negaunee - Syrjala, 1 run (Jandron kick), 7:22
First downs - IR Inland Lakes, 9; Negaunee, 15
Rushes-yards - IR Inland Lakes, 30-70 (Trevor Mallory, 13-53); Negaunee, 31-217 (Tyler Windahl, 9-96)
Comp-Att-Int-Yards - IR Inland Lakes, Todd Athey, 4-10-2-60 and Ethan Jankowiak, 1-1-0-18; Negaunee, Ryan Syrjala, 3-3-0-87; Ben Luke, 2-2-0-11
"We played well," Jacobson said. "It goes back to how the kids looked at the game and prepared themselves throughout the week.
"I liked our mind set and preparation."
So dominant were the Miners that they held the Bulldogs (6-4) to just 148 yards of total offense.
"We went to our basics today and keyed on things we learned as freshmen," senior linebacker Ian Mayotte said. "We were real solid up front and manhandled (Inland Lakes) on the line.
"We were more aggressive today. We thought we could get up on them and meet them at the hole. We were more pro-active than re-active."
Offensively, Syrjala was a model of efficiency. He attempted just three passes, but all went for TDs of 54, 15 and 18 yards - two of them to Tyler Jandron.
"Some days you get them and some days you don't," Syrjala said. "Today, it clicked for us.
"Our execution was clicking in all aspects all over the field. Once (the Bulldogs) started keying on the run, we were able to attack with the pass."
Negaunee's second touchdown, after an 11-yard TD burst by LaJoie, came in a 54-yard pass from Syrjala to wide receiver Zane Radloff. The latter was wide open due to a breakdown in the Inland Lakes defensive coverage.
"When I dropped back, I was almost confused because there weren't any defenders there," Syrjala said. "I just had to get the ball to (Zane) and let him do his thing."
Inland Lakes head coach Stan Schramm said there was a mistake in coverage in his secondary.
"A couple of the boys didn't know we were in man coverage and thought we were in a zone," he said. "There was some miscommunication there."
Jandron then caught a 15-yard TD pass from Syrjala to make the score 22-0 before LaJoie sealed Inland Lakes' fate with the pick he turned into a score with 15.8 seconds left in the opening quarter.
"I thought he sat back there and almost baited their QB (Todd Athey) to throw the ball," Jacobson said.
Said Schramm: "We knew ... Negaunee would be a real tough team to beat, that we'd have to play perfect to beat them. We didn't.
"That interception return certainly didn't help us. The better football team won today."
An 18-yard TD pass from Syrjala to Jandron late in the second quarter - following a 5-yard scoring run by Tyler Windahl - was a floater to the corner of the end zone.
"The (Inland Lakes) safety came up and widened out on Radloff," the Miners' QB said. "I just had to get the ball to Jandron and he made a good catch."
The Miners finished with 315 yards of total offense. Syrjala passed for 87 and Windahl - subbing for LaJoie late in the second quarter - rushed for 96 in just nine carries.
Trevor Mallory ran for 53 yards to lead the Bulldogs, while Athey finished 4-of-10 for 60 yards passing and two picks - Brandon Vilona complemented LaJoie's interception with one of his own.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.