CALUMET - Someone forgot to remind the Eagle River (Wis.) Northland Pines Eagles that Calumet crushed them the past two years, because Friday night's third WestPAC meeting between the teams couldn't have been much different - or closer.
Unlike the Copper Kings' previous 47-16 and 50-12 wins, Friday's season opener was always in doubt, but it was Eagles' kicker Alex Kornely who drilled home the decisive field goal with 6 seconds left to lift the visitors to victory, 30-28, at Agassiz Field.
University of Wisconsin-Madison commit Austin Ramesh certainly did his part to foil the Kings' home opener, running for 275 yards on just 20 carries, including first-half touchdown runs of 72 and 47 yards. The big play hurt the Kings again in the second half when Sam Lacko hauled in an 80-yard TD pass from Cooper Kerner.
Calumet wide receiver Owen Kariniemi hauls in a 22-yard reception in the first quarter of Friday’s game against Eagle River (Wis.) Northland Pines as Sam Lacko defends for the Eagles. Kariniemi caught and ran for a touchdown in Calumet’s 30-28 loss. For more photos, visit cu.mininggazette.com. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
"It's tough to win the game when you give up three big plays like we did," Calumet coach John Croze said. "We're very happy with how we played and we lost to one heck of a good team, and we feel pretty good about our team we have here."
Calumet had to feel good early, too, engineering a 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive to open the game, capped off by a Tyler Roland plunge from 1 yard out.
Ramesh didn't take long to respond, though, breaking at least three tackles on NP's second play from scrimmage, and pulling away from Calumet's pursuing defense for a 72-yard touchdown.
Northland Pines 6 8 7 9 - 30
Calumet 6 14 8 0 - 28
CAL - Tyler Roland 1-yard run (conversion failed), 7:21
NP - Austin Ramesh 72-yard run (extra point blocked), 5:57
CAL - Owen Kariniemi 6-yard run (Clark Kangas run), 8:44
NP - Ramesh 47-yard run (Ramesh run), 6:28
CAL - Kariniemi 33-yard pass from James Sturos (conversion failed), 3:57
CAL - Sturos 3-yard run (Kangas run), 0:15
NP - Sam Lacko 80-yard pass from Cooper Kerner (Alex Kornely extra point), 0:03
NP - Adam Kresl 1-yard run (conversion failed), 5:11
NP - Kornely 24-yard field goal, 0:06
First downs - NP 11, CAL 14; Total yards - NP 434 (324 rush, 110 pass), CAL 289 (187 rush, 102 pass); Rushing - NP, Ramesh 20-275, 2 TDs; Lacko 8-47, 1 TD; Lance Bontrager 2-6; Colton Swiontek 1-1; Kerner 1-(-5); CAL, Sturos 12-95, 1TD; Kangas 11-20; Roland 10-30, 1 TD; Bryce Johnson 8-20; Kariniemi 3-22, 1 TD; Passing - NP, Kerner 5-12-110, 1 TD; CAL, Sturos 8-14-102, 1 TD; Receiving - NP, Ramesh 3-27; Lacko 2-83, 1 TD; CAL, Kariniemi 3-52, 1 TD; Jacob Pieti 1-12; Eli Anderson 1-18; Paul Torola 1-7; Kangas 2-13
"We've been after Calumet for a while. They kicked our butts the last couple years, but we got fired up and made some plays," Ramesh said.
But at least in the first half, the Kings made some plays, too, once again engineering a long scoring drive - this one 15 plays and 76 yards.
The methodic move downfield reached a screeching halt, though, when the Kings had first-and-goal from the 5. Eventually on fourth-and-goal from the 6 after a delay of game penalty backed them from the 1, Calumet used the extra yards to open its playbook ... with a reverse. Owen Kariniemi took the reverse pitch to the right and scampered in untouched, giving the hosts a 14-6 lead with 8:44 left in the first half after Clark Kangas' two-point conversion.
The teams again exchanged scores in the second quarter with Ramesh's 47-yard run and a pretty 33-yard pass play from James Sturos to Kariniemi, leaving the halftime score at 20-14 Calumet.
In the opening half, Northland Pines had less than 5 minutes of possession, and the conserved offensive energy showed in the second half with nearly triple that.
Sturos gave Calumet a 28-14 lead with 15 seconds left in the third quarter with a 3-yard run, but Kerner connected with Lacko on the 80-yard bomb on NP's first ensuing play.
Calumet couldn't get anything going offensively in the fourth quarter and NP's Adam Kresl scored with 5:11 left, which looked to be the tying score until the Eagles boldly tried for two but fumbled the snap.
But, milking a 28-27 lead, Calumet couldn't get a first down, only killing 2:01 off the clock and opening the door for Northland Pines.
"It looked like we got a little tired there in the second half because we certainly didn't execute as well," Croze said. "They certainly tightened down their defense on the other side, too, which caused some problems for us."
Ramesh rammed through Calumet's tiring D with five runs on the final drive, including a 24-yard run in which he completely hurdled a would-be tackler. But, Calumet's defense was just stout enough to force a 24-yard field goal attempt; unfortunately for the hosts, Kornely nailed it.
"I wanted to get it in for the touchdown and put us up, but I knew if it came down to it, I was ready," Kornely said. "I told coach I wanted the ball and he gave it to me, and I came through."
NP coach Eric Swanson reflected on the decision and the win after the game: "I had the tee in my hand on the sidelines, and I knew if we got in the 20 yard-line, we're kicking the field goal. Mr. Kornely came through for us.
"... It's definitely a great win for us and a great win for our program. From day one, Aug. 15, we started practice, this was our goal to win up in Calumet, because quite frankly we were embarrassed the first two times. We came out in the first half and I thought we were OK but I thought we had a little more to give, and in that second half, boy it sure showed. It's a very exciting win."
Calumet will look to bounce back against the Negaunee Miners next Thursday at Agassiz Field.