Looking for gold again: Negaunee High School football team rebuilds after winning Mid-Peninsula Conference title a year ago

Opportunities abound for the Negaunee Miners despite losing a number of key players from last year's Mid-Peninsula Conference championship team. In the front row from left are manager Kyle Waterman, Luke Skewis, Carter Richardson, Jason Waterman, Ethan Brewer, Luke Mattson, Keegan Erva, Robbie Williams, Jacob Ennett, Carter McCracken, Travis Nelson and manager Ty Niemi. Second row from left, Dan Gooseberry, Drew DuShane, Jonathon Hill, Jordan Cox, Peyton Anderson, Jeremy Hill, Eric Etelamaki, Jake Hill, Marco Gravedoni, Theo Kumpula, Erik Salminen and Bryce Jarvi. Third row from left, Dallas Hall, Leo Helppi, Michael Sedlock, Michael Potvin, Alex Zampese, William Carlson, Logan Chaudier, Brandon Rogers, Elijah Kaiser, Brayden Velmer, Collin Remilong, Collin Little and Travis Elledge. Top row from left, Payton Marcotte, Mason Granger, assistant coach Dan Waterman, head coach Paul Jacobson, assistant coach Jeff Niemi, assistant coach Kevin Jacobson, Jacob Larson and Ander Sorensen. Not pictured is Peter Ruokola. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg) ​

2017 schedule

(* Mid-Peninsla Conference game)

Friday, Aug. 25 — at Boyne City, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 31 — CALUMET, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 8 — * at Gladstone, 7 p.m.

Negaunee’s Luke Mattson, top left, blocks for teammate Neal Violetta on a run near midfield as Marquette’s Jacob Johnson, right, converges on the play during their game at Marquette Senior High School on Oct. 14. (Journal file photo)

Friday, Sept. 15 — * IRON MOUNTAIN, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 22 — * at Gwinn, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 29 — * at Ishpeming, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 6 — * MANISTIQUE, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 13 — MARQUETTE, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 20 — * at Westwood, 7 p.m.


NEGAUNEE — The 2016 football season was one to remember for the Negaunee Miners.

The Mid-Peninsula Conference crown had been on lockdown due to the recent dominance of Ishpeming, but last year, the Miners broke through as they finished the regular season undefeated and earned the league title.

Negaunee then made it to the MHSAA Division 6 regional playoff final where they were eliminated in a hard-fought battle with Calumet.

“It was a fun season all around,” Miners head coach Paul Jacobson said. “With the competition that we knew was coming in, both in and out of the conference, we knew that it was going to be a tough season. The kids did a great job of staying focused and taking it one game at a time.

“We didn’t really know what was going to come out of all of it, but we knew if we worked hard, good things could happen. We had a group of kids come together for one purpose and that was a great to see.”

This year’s squad is vastly different from the previous one as last year’s was stacked with seniors. Negaunee only has a couple of guys coming back that got significant playing time, so the first couple of games could be a learning experience.

At quarterback, it looks to be a duel between Jacob Ennett, who was a wide receiver last year, and Jason Waterman to replace Brock Aho. The Miners’ talented backfield tandem of Shane Ring and Neal Violetta is also gone, but Jacobson thinks that he has guys who can step in.

“We’re looking for a lot of leadership from our returners,” he said. “I think (last) year’s junior class learned a lot from the seniors and Jacob is one of those guys who jumps out. We’ll have to see if either he or Jason will take the helm.

“Losing Shane and Neal hurts because they were two fine running backs, but now we have a lot of good ones. Robbie Williams and Jake Hill are two that come to mind, but there are a bunch of other guys who can play. I also think that with Jake moving to quarterback, we have some guys who could play receiver, too.”

Arguably, Negaunee’s greatest strength has been its offensive line, which was big and strong last year. However, a lot of those players graduated, so the Miners are all but building from scratch. Jacobson says that even though the line will be young, they come together well as a group.

Just like Negaunee, many schools in the M-PC lost a lot of good players, so the league frontrunner is a question mark. Jacobson thinks that a lot of teams can win the title and that even though this year is a bit of an adjustment due to the youth on his team, he likes what he has in front of them.

“It will be interesting this year because a lot of the teams had experience with a lot of seniors and the competition was brutal,” Jacobson said. “It will be interesting to see who develops early and it will be tough again as it always is.

“It’s early, but from what I’ve seen already, either with success or failure, it’s going to be fun. Expectations are high here, but we’re just looking forward to strapping on the helmets and putting on the cleats and see what we have in front of us this year.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.


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