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Football: Calumet pulls away from Hancock for 34-18 win

Hancock quarterback Connor LeClaire (1) dives over Calumet defender Nolan Sturos (15) for a touchdown during a high school football game on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Hancock, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — With an early morning snow shower and a temperature below 40 degrees, Friday night’s football match up between the Hancock Bulldogs and the Calumet Copper Kings felt more like a mid-November battle as opposed to a mid-October one.

The Copper Kings were anything but cold as they defeated the Bulldogs 34-18 at McAfee Field.

Calumet head coach John Croze was quite pleased with his team’s performance given the fact that they had only played a game and a half before Friday due to COVID-19 restrictions throughout the area.

“We did a heck of job with intensity,” he said. “I am so proud of the guys to get our offense rolling, and to drive like we did was awesome.”

Both teams traded scores in their opening possessions. First it was the Copper Kings and their quarterback Paul Sturos. At the 7:23 mark, he took matters in his own hands and weaved his way in for a 30-yard touchdown run.

For the Bulldogs, it was quarterback Connor LeClaire who used the air attack to keep pace with the Copper Kings.

On Hancock’s first set of downs, LeClaire threw three passes for more than 30 yards total, and led a 78-yard drive which led to a Bulldog touchdown with just 1:14 in the first. The game was tied at seven.

The second quarter looked quite similar. At 10:59, Copper Kings Dryden Nelson not only put on a 40-yard dash down the hash marks but finished it off a play later with a short jaunt into the end zone.

“We have some really good athletes on this team, and if you give them a little it of room,they will turn it into a lot of room,” Croze said. “Dryden had a heck of a game tonight, and he is just dangerous every time he touches the ball. Dean Loukus is like that for us too.”

The Bulldogs opened up their next drive with a big 48-yard pass play from LeClaire to receiver Carsen Chynoweth. However, the air game soon took a crash dive as LeClaire was picked off by Nelson two plays later. The plot thickened however as the Bulldogs got the ball back less than two minutes later thanks to had Nordstrom interception. The pick off set up a 30-yard field goal for LeClaire to make the score 10-13 with 2:10 left in the first half.

The Copper Kings got one more touchdown on a 60-yard pass and run from Sturos to Loukus with 1:05 left to make the score 20-10 at half.

“We had a great game going with those first few drives, but we just seem to lose focus,” said Hancock’s head coach Ramon Sague. “At half time, I told the guys that we probably were not going to be able to run outside. We would need to stay between the tackles. We had some success with that but not enough.”

The third quarter belonged to the Copper Kings. After a long Bulldogs drive which put them in the red zone, Calumet’s strong defense shut Hancock down. As the Copper Kings took over, it was the Sturos and Nelson show once again. A second-and-8 hand off to Nelson put him on a path to a 70-yard touchdown run.

That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, Sague said.

“You could see the momentum shift and the going got tough for us,” he said. “We were able to run and throw the ball early on, but we made to many turnovers. Penalties were killers for us on defense.”

The Copper Kings were able to score once more in the fourth and so were the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs will face the Hougton Gremlins next week for the annual Copper Bowl, and Calumet will welcome Marquette to round off the regular season.

Calumet 7 13 7 7 — 34

Hancock 7 3 0 8 — 18

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