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Negaunee Miners football team takes on a familiar foe in Calumet Copper Kings

Negaunee’s Gerald Johnson runs up the sideline as he is tackled by Westwood’s Travis Uren during their MHSAA Division 6 playoff game at the Patriots’ field last Friday. (Photo courtesy Curtis Aho)

NEGAUNEE — Playing a familiar opponent in the postseason can have both pros and cons.

For the Negaunee football team, it’s been almost entirely for the good so far as the Miners got revenge for an earlier loss against Gladstone in the first round of the MHSAA Division 6 playoffs and rolled past neighbor and fellow West PAC foe Westwood last weekend.

Tonight, for the third straight week, the Miners hit the road as they head to Calumet, a team that they seem to face every year in the playoffs. To get past the Copper Kings, Negaunee will probably need to force some turnovers, something they were quite good at a week ago against the Patriots, but head coach Paul Jacobson isn’t thinking that’s going to be automatic.

“That’s something that you can hope for, but you can’t game-plan for,” he said earlier this week. “It’s fortunate when you’re on top in the plus column and it’s unfortunate when you’re in the negative column.

“So you can’t depend on those. You can’t count on them. You can hopefully try to prevent them, and hopefully you can avoid them.

Negaunee's Nash Hillier makes a move to elude the tackle of Westwood defender Zach Carlson during their MHSAA Division 6 high school football playoff game at the Patriots' field last Friday. (Photo courtesy Curtis Aho)

“I think we’re playing good defense right now. We’re getting people around the football and we’re getting people in the right spots where they need to be.

“Good things will happen when that happens.”

The Miners need to be at their best defensively as the Copper Kings are coming off of solid wins over Houghton and Menominee. The good thing is, like the previous two playoff games, Negaunee knows what’s coming.

“They’re very similar to us in that they’re going to do what they do best and they’re going to do what their coaches know best,” Jacobson said. “That’s (the) I-option, and they’re going to play sound defense and not make mistakes.”

Negaunee’s offense has been chugging along with its two power running backs in Nash Hillier and Lukas Nelson, but not only that, quarterback Gerald Johnson has really emerged after replacing Will Luke, who was injured early on.

“Obviously, it’s still a big loss losing Will Luke early in the season, but Gerald has really worked hard and really tried to work on his craft,” Jacobson said. “He stays after practice every day whether it’s running different plays offensively or throwing the ball. He really has come into his own.”

All in all, Jacobson likes how his team is looking and he says his team is excited to try to get the job done on the road again.

“I think the biggest thing is when you look at it, this is really our eighth game,” he said. “It’s Week 8. Teams, if you think about it, aren’t really in the playoffs until after Week 9. So we feel that we’re starting to hit our stride and we’re playing well. I think we’re hitting our stride and the kids are getting their second wind right now.

“They’re happy. They’re happy to do what they love to do on a Friday night. They’re excited to be at every practice. They’re excited to be at every opportunity on a Friday night that they have together.

“This is no exception. We’re out practicing today, it’s a little chilly, but it was a great day to be together. They just have such a positive attitude and it’s great to feed off of as a coach.”

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

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