Kick of a lifetime

Salminen’s boot lifts Miners to last-second 30-28 win over Hancock

Negaunee kicker Erik Salminen, top, gets an assist from holder Keegan Erva during the Miners’ home game against Hancock on Friday evening. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

By RYAN SPITZA

Journal Sports Writer

NEGAUNEE — It’s every kicker’s dream.

Time winding down, game on the line, hit the clutch kick.

Negaunee High School’s Erik Salminen did just that, booting a 27-yard field goal as the clock struck zero to send the Miners football team past Hancock 30-28 at Miners Stadium on Friday night.

With its first win, Negaunee is 1-2 on the season while Hancock dropped to 2-1.

Miners head coach Paul Jacobson said the decision to send Salminen out for his big moment was an easy one.

“(We have) confidence in our kicking game,” he said. “Erik has been through a lot in his life and to come out here and do that, he’s a good kid; I wouldn’t trust it any other way and I knew he’d make it.”

While being mobbed by fans, friends and family, Salminen managed to get a few words out about his game-winning kick.

“This was a first,” he said. “It was nerve-wracking and hopefully I don’t have to be in that situation again, but we’re going to keep on going and keep on fighting.”

Aside from the praise for his kicker, Jacobson said he’s proud of the effort from all of his players.

“I’m happy for these guys and the amount of work they put in leading up to this game,” he said. “Whether it was the off-season or the last week.

“They played to win tonight. They came to win, they earned victory, that’s a good Hancock football team and I’m proud of my guys.”

Hancock head coach Ted Holmstrom said his team battled all night but just fell short of keeping an undefeated season alive.

“Our boys fought hard the whole game and took the lead late,” he said. “They never quit and it’s kind of the way this team has … developed.

“Our coaches came up with some great changes on defense in the second half and they did a lot better. Our players stepped up big time and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Holmstrom also wanted to give a shout-out to two of his former coaches and friends on the opposition.

“Credit to Negaunee,” he said. “They had a great game, great coaches and great players and I always appreciate a good effort like that.

“I also want to say thanks to (NHS Principal) Coach (Mark) Marana. He’s my former coach. What you saw tonight was a big part of him. Coach (John) Mileski as well. They all live right here in Negaunee and what we did tonight is a tribute to those guys.”

Hancock went three-and-out on its first possession.

Negaunee wasted no time on its first chance on offense, moving seven plays as quarterback Jason Waterman handed off to running back Drew DuShane for a 6-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal.

Salminen’s extra points was wide to put the Miners up 6-0.

On the ensuing drive, Hancock junior quarterback Colton Salani ran a quick no-huddle offense, seeming to tire out the Negaunee defense as he found Austin Salani for a 14-yard TD pass. The Miners blocked the extra point try to knot the score 6-6.

On Negaunee’s next drive, Waterman completed a pass over the middle to DuShane, who took a hard hit and got up slowly. That play tacked on a 15-yard personal foul penalty against the Bulldogs.

With the drive moving into the second quarter, the Miners capitalized four plays later with a Waterman 11-yard run to paydirt. With Waterman’s 2-point run, NHS led 14-6.

Running the quick strike offense again, QB Salani connected with WR Salani again for a score, this time an 8-yard pass. The 2-pointer was converted on a pass to senior Evan Larson and the teams were tied again 14-14.

Negaunee kept pushing on offense, with a Peyton Anderson run netting 19 yards into Bulldogs territory. Anderson later found the end zone with a 3-yard rush to make it 21-14.

The Miners finally got a stop on the next Hancock possession and got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining in the half. With a chance to go up two scores, Negaunee was stopped by the Hancock defense on 4th-and-1 from the Bulldogs 3 with 2.5 seconds left before halftime, keeping Hancock within one score.

Negaunee failed to get a first down with the opening possession of the second half before Hancock gained great field position at the Negaunee 35 on a big pass play from Colton Salani to junior David Storm. The Miners defense held, however, to keep it 21-14 after three quarters.

Then with 8:24 left in the game, Colton Salani found Storm for their third connection of the night, this time on a 68-yard bomb to pull the Bulldogs within one point pending the conversion. Deciding to go for the lead on the 2-point conversion, the Miners made the stop and maintained a 21-20 lead.

Negaunee had a chance to all but seal the result by scoring on the ensuing possession after running back Eric Etelamaki found the end zone from nine yards out. The Miners also attempted the 2-point conversion that would’ve made it a nine-point game, but it failed.

Now Hancock’s turn with the ball, Colton Salani ran a QB keeper for a 19-yard score. On yet another 2-point try, the Salanis — Colton to Austin — hooked up successfully to give the Bulldogs a slim 28-27 advantage with 2:06 left.

That set up Negaunee’s last-gasp chance. The big play of the drive was a 22-yard completion from Waterman to Keegan Erva to set up the Miners in great field position at the Hancock 43, though with time ticking.

After a first down, the Bulldogs defense forced 4th-and-1 as Waterman’s QB sneak gained three yards to the 20.

A few plays later, Waterman connected with DuShane to the left side with 8.9 seconds remaining. Waterman made one more play, running the ball to the middle of the field and taking a knee to set up Salminen for a dead-center boot.

With 4 seconds left and pressure from the Hancock defense, Salminen booted it perfectly through the uprights as the crowd went wild.

Waterman finished 11 of 16 through the air for 132 yards while Anderson had 106 yards rushing on 17 carries. DuShane led Negaunee receivers with eight receptions for 117 yards.

Colton Salani was 18 of 24 for 264 yards and three TDs for the Bulldogs with Austin Salani catching all three scores and earning 126 yards through the air. Colton Salani also led Hancock in rushing with 39 yards.

Negaunee hosts Manistique (0-3) Friday while Hancock hosts Gwinn (2-0) that night.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.