Mistakes cost Patriots in loss

Westwood quarterback Nathan Beckman hands off to Patriots running back Ashton Bergman in their game at Calumet on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by George Leinonen)

By EDDIE O’NEILL

Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

CALUMET — The Calumet Copper Kings moved to 3-0 on the season after winning a 14-12 defensive battle Friday night against the Westwood Patriots. It was the first-ever official meeting between the two schools on the gridiron.

“I’m so proud of my guys,” Calumet coach John Croze said. “I liked how we played a team defense and adjusted to stop their offense.”

The Westwood offense, which was centered around senior running back Ashton Bergman, who had 42 carries for 162 yards, was good, but not enough to break through the Copper Kings’ staunch defense.

The Patriots had 191 rushing yards compared to only 68 by the Copper Kings, but Calumet accomplished more with less.

The Patriots also passed for 59 yards while Calumet threw for only 14, but quarterback Brent Loukus made those 14 count with a strike to Travis Ojala for the game-winning score in the third quarter.

While the Patriots was impressive, their three turnovers cost them the 14 points Calumet needed to win.

The first turnover came in the first quarter on a mishap where the Patriots’ center hiked the ball to nobody and the Copper Kings picked it up on their 34-yard line.

“We had too many mistakes,” said Patriots head coach Scott Syrjala. “That bad snap was the start of it.”

Next up was a 26-yard scamper by Loukus. A few plays later, Calumet was looking at second and goal at the Patriots 5-yard line. Ojala, a senior, made his way into the end zone on a far-left sprint.

The Copper Kings went for the two-point conversion and missed it.

Westwood came back with a 7 1/2-minute drive of their own to tie the game. Quarterback Nathan Beckman led the charge with four first downs and finally a quarterback sneak into the end zone with 37 seconds left on the clock. They too missed the two-point conversion and the game was tied at six.

In the second quarter, the score remained at six, Westwood’s late first-quarter momentum carried over to the second, but not for long. After a four and out by the Copper Kings, the Patriots took over on their 30-yard line. On the second play, Ojala intercepted a Patriots’ pass. While it didn’t lead to a Calumet score, Croze did note that it changed the team’s momentum.

“Going into the locker room at half time, I told the guys what we needed to do to win this game, and particular how, on defense, we can’t hang our heads because we gave up a touchdown,” said Croze.

With nine minutes on the clock in the third, the Patriots gave up their third turnover when Ojala intercepted a Beckman pass and he made a 35-yard dash to the opponents’ 18-yard line. A few downs later, Loukus would connect with Ojala for a 14-yard pass in the end zone.

Their two-point conversion, this time, was good.

While the Patriots continued to hammer away in the third by running the ball with Bergman, the Copper Kings’ defensive line was tough. He was denied major yardage again and again.

In the fourth, the Patriots did have a chance to tie the game at 6:16 after a Bergman touchdown, but with the missed conversion, they found themselves down two, 14-12.

“We have to learn from this one,” said Syrjala. “While they (Calumet) are an elite football team, we were matched physically with them. But mistakes killed us. Hopefully we can learn from this one.”

While he wished that his squad would have had more points on the board, Croze said that the offense did just enough to get the win.

“We knew that the two points were going to make the difference and it did,” said Croze. “This was a big one, and we are going to celebrate it for a couple days and then get back to work.”