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Miners take control: Turnovers prove costly to Westwood Patriots as Negaunee wins 42-14

Negaunee’s Eli Luokkala catches a pass before continuing upfield to score the Miners’ first touchdown against Westwood in their MHSAA Division 6 high school football playoff game at the Patriots’ field on Friday. (Photo courtesy Curtis Aho)

Up next: MHSAA Division 6 district final: Negaunee (5-3 — 22.000 playoff points) at Calumet (4-3 — 23.033 points), next weekend at a time and day to be determined

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ISHPEMING — Turnovers can be costly to a football team in the playoffs and even more so if the opponent takes advantage of it.

That’s what the Negaunee Miners did Friday night as they used five takeaways to charge past Westwood 42-14. Negaunee now faces Calumet in the MHSAA Division 6 district final next week.

“You can’t count on stuff that you can’t control,” Miners head coach Paul Jacobson said. “What I did like was the way we came out today. We played with intensity and we played with emotion and we played together tonight and we left it out on the field.”

The Miners’ first takeaway came on the Patriots’ initial possession of the game. After driving down to the Negaunee 2-yard line, Westwood was intercepted in the end zone. A few plays later, Gerald Johnson connected with Eli Luokkala for a 50-yard TD and with the extra point, it was 7-0.

Negaunee forced a second turnover on the ensuing kickoff when Westwood fumbled. The Miners turned that turnover into points as well as Lukas Nelson scored on 1-yard touchdown.

The Patriots’ third turnover came on their next possession when they were intercepted for a second time. Nash Hillier then used it to pad Negaunee’s lead to three TDs on a 5-yard run.

Westwood pulled within two scores of the Miners on the ensuing kickoff as Garrett Mann took it 62 yards to the end zone. With the 2-point conversion, it was 21-8 Negaunee at the half.

Things continued to go wrong for the Patriots, though. On their second play of the second half, Westwood fumbled away the snap deep in its own territory. Two plays later, Hillier scored from 10 yards out and the game was now 27-8.

Negaunee then all but put the game away on their next possession as Hillier busted loose down the left sideline for a 28-yard TD. The Miners also got the two-point conversion and led 35-8.

Westwood did get one touchdown back on a 1-yard run by Mann, but Negaunee kept rolling from there and capped off the victory on a 55-yard TD run by Nelson.

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

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