Control wasn’t total
IM?mounts 2nd-half comeback for 12-9 victory at Negaunee
By RYAN STIEG
Journal Sports Writer
NEGAUNEE — For the majority of its season opener, the Negaunee football team seemed to be in control.
The Miners’ rushing attack was chugging downfield and the defense kept Iron Mountain off the scoreboard throughout the first half.
What Negaunee couldn’t do though was stop the big plays and that’s what ended up burning them in the end as the Mountaineers overcame a nine-point deficit at halftime to earn a 12-9 comeback victory on a rainy Friday evening.
“They’ve got two good kids in Charlie (Gerhard) and Marcus (Johnson) and Marcus was able to extend plays tonight,” Negaunee head coach Paul Jacobson said. “He made some good plays and got the ball to Charlie and that’s what it came down to.
“I thought our defense played well for the most part throughout the game, but you’ve got to be able to contain Marcus and not let him get out of the pocket and extend plays to throw the ball down the field.
“We’ve got to be able to do more, too, in the second half and made some mistakes offensively.
“We played a good team tonight and they’re going to win some ball games. We’ve got to use this as a learning experience and get better ourselves and keep moving forward.”
For Mountaineers head coach Robin Marttila, the comeback win was due to resilience and teamwork.
“This is a credit to our team handling adversity well, especially in the first half, and making a few plays in the second half,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. I like to say that we have a number of playmakers on our team and pretty much every one of them took a turn making a play.”
Negaunee got on the scoreboard first on its opening drive as it took advantage of a poor IM punt. Two first-down runs from Peyton Anderson helped bring the Miners deep into Mountaineers territory and quarterback Jason Waterman capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good so Negaunee led 6-0 with 4:47 remaining in the first quarter.
Early in the second, it looked like IM was on the verge of getting on the board as Johnson marched the Mountaineers downfield thanks to a nice tackle-breaking run and two first-down passes to Gerhard and Bryce Pietrantonio. However with first-and-goal on the Negaunee 8-yard line, Johnson was sacked for a 13-yard loss on second down and the Negaunee defense forced two incompletions to maintain its lead.
The Miners took advantage of that defensive stand and used its rushing game to pound their way upfield. With one second left in the half, Negaunee kicker Erik Salminen made a 19-yard field goal to give the Miners a 9-0 advantage at the break.
In the second half, Johnson started to find more openings. After getting picked off by Negaunee’s Drew DuShane on the Mountaineers’ first possession of the second half, Johnson stayed calm in the pocket and managed to heave a long pass downfield to Gerhard as he was slammed to the turf. Gerhard then ran untouched into the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown. With the missed extra point, IM only trailed 9-6.
After the IM defense stuffed the Miners on fourth down, Johnson went to work again. He hit Colin Visintainer for a 24-yard pass to move the ball near midfield. Caleb Evosevich-Hynes then busted loose on a 26-yard run to move the ball into Negaunee territory.
Two plays later, Johnson took off down the far sideline for a 32-yard touchdown to give the Mountaineers their first and only lead. With the missed extra point, IM led 12-9.
The Miners weren’t done yet, though. Negaunee gradually moved the ball into the IM zone and on third down, DuShane appeared to find an opening, but Johnson came up big as he closed the gap quickly and brought down the Negaunee runner.
After stopping the Miners on fourth down, Johnson went back to work as he found Visintainer with a 31-yard pass. With the ball on the Negaunee 19, the Miners had a chance on fourth down to get the ball back and maybe put together one final drive. However, Johnson hit an open Tony Fiera with a 14-yard first-down pass and IM ran out the clock.
“Marcus obviously did great things for our team tonight, but he had a lot of guys around him making plays,” Marttila said. “Charlie got some attention, Colin made some crucial catches and that last catch by Tony, he’s a great kid that was in the right spot. I’m very happy for our team.”
Negaunee plays at Calumet Thursday, while IM heads to Westwood Friday.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.