BARAGA - Baraga and Gogebic both needed a rebound game after lopsided losses last week, but only the Miners got on the right track Friday night - and they did so in emphatic fashion.
Gogebic dominated the Great Western Conference battle from the opening kickoff, eventually opening up a 44-0 halftime lead before closing out a 50-6 win during an entire second half of running time at Buckland-Osterman Memorial Field.
"We came prepared and got off to a pretty darn good start and didn't let up for a while. Our kids played hard and their kids played hard to the end," Gogebic coach Mark Mazzon said. "I've been in both situations and it's tough, but we definitely needed a game like this because we were hurting last week (after a 53-15 loss to Northland Pines)."
Baraga quarterback Jon Kaster rushes the ball during the first half of the Vikings 50-6 home loss to Gogebic. Kaster later scored the hosts’ only touchdown but was injured on that third-quarter play. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
Baraga was hurting for a win in the worst way after losing 49-6 last week in Hancock, but the Vikings' 16 rostered players only left their home opener hurting mentally and physically. Viking quarterback Jon Kaster tweaked his back while making a cut on Baraga's only touchdown in the third quarter, eventually leaving in an ambulance. Leading Viking running backs Michael Turunen and Corbin Crittenden also spent time on the sidelines in the first half before returning after halftime.
"We knew coming in that (Gogebic) is a very fine team. They were young last year and now they're experienced this year," Baraga coach Doug Hodges said. "We told our guys we have to be able to find that switch within us and flip that switch and be aggressive. We're playing unfundamental football right now. It's getting frustrating."
The frustration started early on for the hosts.
Gogebic 16 28 6 0 - 50
Baraga 0 0 6 0 - 6
GOG - Alex Coubal 2-yard run (Caleb Winkler run), 7:53
GOG - Eric Lane 4-yard run (Winkler run), 0:14
GOG - Coubal 1-yard run (Lane pass to Taylor Smith), 10:43
GOG - Winkler 21-yard run (Coubal run), 6:55
GOG - Winkler 21-yard run (run failed), 5:17
GOG - Arthur Rundell 55-yard punt return (kick failed), 1:52
BAR - Jon Kaster 4-yard run (run failed), 2:55
GOG - Rundell 4-yard run (kick failed), 0:26
First downs - GOG 12, BAR 9; Total yards - GOG 323 (188 rush, 135 pass), BAR 167 (149 rush, 18 pass); Rushing - GOG, Winkler 10-128, 2 TD; Coubal 9-31, 2 TD; Jess Mazzon 5-15; Rundell 2-8, 1 TD; Lane 2-5, 1 TD; Ben Zielinski 1-1; BAR, Michael Turunen 12-42; Corbin Crittenden 13-41; Kaster 12-34, 1 TD, 2 fumbles; Dillon Hueckstaedt 8-32, 1 fumble; Passing - GOG, Lane 4-5-115; Zielinski 1-1-20; BAR, Kaster 2-5-18; Receiving - GOG, Zielinski 2-57; Smith 1-42; Nick Cossi 1-20; Rundell 1-16; BAR, Turunen 1-21; Taylor Lindemann 1-(-3).
Gogebic's Alex Coubal capped off the game's opening nine-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, and QB Eric Lane punched in a 4-yard run on the last drive of the first quarter. And the 16-0 first quarter paled in comparison to the visitors' four- touchdown second frame.
Coubal notched his second rushing TD of the game just 1:17 into the second quarter, and Caleb Winkler only needed 1:38 to equal Coubal's efforts with a pair of 21-yard rushing touchdowns on either side of a Kaster fumble. For good measure, Gogebic's Arthur Rundell tacked on a 55-yard punt return just 1:52 before halftime to make it 44-0.
By that point, Baraga had only earned one first down in the half, and that was on a Gogebic defensive penalty, but the Vikings finally looked like they had a scoring drive in the making as the first half came to a close.
Turunen returned a kickoff to Gogebic's 35-yard line, and two plays later Kaster connected with Turunen on a 7-yard completion that resulted in a 21-yard gain by virtue of a facemask penalty that sidelined the Baraga tailback.
Dillon Hueckstaedt and Kaster combined to rush the Vikings to the 1-yard line with 25 seconds left, but a 3-yard loss followed by Kaster's second fumble kept the goose egg on the scoreboard.
Baraga finally put some points on the scoreboard against Gogebic's backups when Kaster capped off a 57-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 2:55 left in the third quarter, but he was injured on the play and left in an ambulance midway through the fourth quarter.
"He's the heart and soul of our team, the core to our offense," Hodges said. "I'm thinking he'll be back, but who knows."
Rundell upped the score to 50-6 with 26 seconds left in the third quarter and even though the Vikings engineered a 10-play fourth quarter drive to the Gogebic 13-yard line, a Hueckstaedt fumble ended the drive and effectively ended the game.
"We're on the downward slope with our program and somewhere down the line there's going to be that defining moment we can look back on and say that's the moment that changed and we started to climb back up," Hodges said.
Baraga (0-3, 0-2 GWC) hopes that moment will come next Friday at home against Gwinn. Gogebic (2-1, 1-0 GWC) has a key home conference dual against Lake Linden-Hubbell next Friday.