Perfect start: Copper Kings improve to 2-0 with victory over Miners 30-8 Thursday

Eddie O’NeillDaily Mining Gazette The Copper Kings Jayden Gariepy (42) pursues the Miners’ Jason Waterman (4) during the first half of a game Thursday at Agassiz Field in Calumet.

CALUMET — The Calumet Copper Kings moved to 2-0 on the young football season with a big 30-8 win Thursday night over the Negaunee Miners at Agassiz Field.

For Copper Kings’ head coach John Croze, the win meant more than just who had the most points on the scoreboard.

“Anytime you can beat Negaunee, it’s a big victory,” he said. “They are a well-coached team who compete to the end. Our two teams are very much evenly matched on the field and so for us to play well against them and come out on top is a big deal.

“I am proud of my boys.”

Indeed, the two teams did come out onto the gridiron appearing to be equally matched. It only took a few plays after the opening kickoff before the Copper Kings put six up on the scoreboard. Senior running back Sam Erkkila dashed his way into the end zone on a 58-yard run down the middle. They attempted the two point conversion and managed to get it.

The Miners came right back, driving the length of the field to put points on the board.

They received the ball at their 44-yard line. On second down and five, quarterback Jason Waterman split the defense and dashed for a 43-yard run, moving the ball into scoring position on the Kings’ 23-yard line. That was followed up a few downs later with Eric Etelamaki plowing his way through the Calumet defense for a 9-yard run. Waterman then pulled a quarterback sneak and scampered in for a touchdown. After the two-point conversion, they tied the game at 8-8.

It only took a few minutes into the second quarter before Calumet was back on the scoreboard thanks to 20-yard run up the middle by senior running back Travis Ojala. They went for the two and got it to make the score 16-8.

During the ensuing drive, tragedy struck the Miners as Waterman, who also plays defensive back, injured his leg on a hard-hit tackle and limped off the field. He was replaced by Jake Larson. According to Negaunee’s head coach Paul Jacobson, Waterman’s injury was a turning point in the game.

“Jason has been our leader,” he said. “Our guys know his style and (the) leadership he brings to the field. That was a game changer. I thought Larson did great as he stepped up the offense, but the loss of Waterman was a blow to us.”

In the third quarter, the Kings added six more points with a 22-yard Ojala sprint down the sideline.

The Miners could not mount any real offensive charges down the field. The Copper Kings stepped up their defense, tracking the Miners’ offensive strategies, not allowing them to go much more than one series of plays per possession.

“I thought our guys did phenomenal on defense. Nobody was getting by them,” said Croze. “We had them matched step for step.”

The Copper Kings would put up one more touchdown, again with the help of Ojala, who evaded three tackles from the 21-yard line and plowed himself in for the score.

The Miners fall to 0-2 for the season. In the post-game huddle, Jacobson said he saw some guys who wanted to compete, but quite a few who were out their just going through the motions.

“We will be watching you this week in practice to see who wants to play, who wants the ball,” he said. “I need competitors out there. Guys who are going to work hard.”


Negaunee 8 0 0 0 – 8

Calumet 8 8 8 6 – 30

First quarter

CAL – Ojala, 58-yard run, (run good)

NEG – Waterman 9-yard run, (run good)

Second quarter

CAL – Ojala, 20-yard run (run good)

Third quarter

CAL – Ojala, 22-yard run (run good)

Fourth quarter

CAL – Ojala, 21-yard run (run failed)