Calumet fends off Negaunee Miners, 30-8, in high school football

CALUMET — Calumet knew that Thursday’s high school football opponent was an important measuring stick in the new-look 16-team West PAC.

The Copper Kings passed with flying colors with a 30-8 victory at Agassiz Field over the visiting Negaunee Miners.

For Calumet head coach John Croze, the win meant more than just improving to 2-0.

“Any time you can beat Negaunee, it’s a big victory,” he said. “They are a well coached team who compete to the end.

“Our two teams are very much evenly matched on the field and so for us to play well against them and come out on top is a big deal.”

The teams looked well matched in the early going. It only took a few plays after the opening kickoff before the Copper Kings put six points up on the scoreboard. Sam Erkkila dashed his way into the end zone on a 58-yard run down the middle. With the two-point conversion, Calumet led 8-0.

But the Miners (0-2) came right back, driving the length of the field to even the score.

Taking over in good field position, quarterback Jason Waterman split the defense and dashed for a 43-yard run on second down, moving the ball deep into Calumet territory at the 23.

That was followed a few plays later with Eric Etelamaki plowed his way through the Calumet defense for nine yards, before Waterman took a quarterback sneak into the end zone. The two-pointer tied the game.

The Kings were back in pursuit of more points early in the second quarter thanks to another TD run up the middle, this time 20 yards, by senior back Travis Ojala. Another two-pointer made it 16-8.

The ensuing drive proved pivotal in the game and may prove pivotal to Negaunee’s season as Waterman injured his leg on a hard-hitting tackle and limped off the field. He was replaced at QB by Jake Larson.

The injury was a turning point in the game, according to Miners head coach Paul Jacobson.

“Jason has been our leader,” he said. “Our guys know his style and (the) leadership he brings to the field. That was a game changer. I thought Larson did great as he stepped up the offense, but the loss of Waterman was a blow to us.”

And Negaunee wouldn’t get in the end zone again.

Meanwhile, Ojala just kept scoring once each quarter. In the third, it was a 22-yard sprint down the sideline, then in the fourth, he evaded three tacklers for a 21-yard TD.

In the post-game huddle, Jacobson said he saw some guys who wanted to compete, but quite a few who were out there going through the motions.

“We will be watching you this week in practice to see who wants to play, who wants the ball,” he said. “I need competitors out there. Guys who are going to work hard.”