Late resurgence: Negaunee Miners go from sloppy to resplendent in 29-6 home win over L’Anse Purple Hornets

Putting pressure on L’Anse quarterback Alex Kissel, center, are Negaunee’s Eli Luokkala, left, and Preston Toutant in the second quarter of their high school football game played at the Miners’ field on Friday night. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

NEGAUNEE — The Negaunee football team didn’t exactly get off to the start they wanted to Friday night against L’Anse, but the Miners got the finish they were hoping for.

NHS was hampered by a sloppy first half, but eventually caught fire after the break on its way to a 29-6 win over the Purple Hornets.

“I think we just executed better in the second half,” Negaunee head coach Paul Jacobson said. “I think we made some mistakes in the first half. We had a long drive and fumbled. We got better in the red zone and we got better securing the ball.”

Negaunee racked up 309 rushing yards with Nash Hillier leading the way with 148, and in the end that was probably the key for the second-half turnaround.

“It was a good team effort,” Jacobson said. “We executed well. I’m proud of the guys up front like Preston Toutant. We had a lot of seniors, Bryce Dunstan and Braydon Oglesby and Finn Helppi, did a great job up front for these guys. We even had a sophomore, Eli VanBuren, do a great job.

“Even on the edge tonight, we were really impressed with Eli Luokkala and Parker Cain on the edge blocking for us.”

After a scoreless first quarter where the Hornets were stopped on fourth down twice and the Miners turned the ball over twice, L’Anse struck first with the help of some big plays from quarterback Alex Kissel. The senior then capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Presley Rasanen. The kick was blocked, though, and the score was 6-0 Hornets.

The Miners answered back on the very next play when kick returner Phillip Nelson brought back the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a TD. Nelson also made the extra point and Negaunee took a 7-6 lead into the half.

“I thought we played a very good first half and just kind of imploded in the second,” L’Anse head coach Mark Leaf said. “They kind of wore us down, too, in the second half. They’re a little bigger than us.

“But I’m pleased with the effort of the kids. We came down here and had a good showing tonight. We came up on the short end, but the kids played tough.”

Negaunee got its offense going in the third quarter, scoring on its first possession on a 1-yard TD by Lukas Nelson. The Miners also got the 2-point conversion on a pass from Gerald Johnson to Luokkala and Negaunee extended its advantage to 15-6.

On their next possession, the Miners had to start on their own 4-yard-line thanks to a nice Hornets’ punt. However, it didn’t deter them as they got some good runs from Hillier and Matt Skewis to get deep into L’Anse territory. With two seconds left in the quarter, Lukas Nelson notched his second TD on a 7-yard run and with the extra point, Negaunee led 22-6.

The Miners then capped off the win on their first possession of the fourth. After a 42-yard pass from Johnson to Phillip Nelson brought the ball to the Hornets 1, Lukas Nelson plunged into the end zone to finish the scoring.

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


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