Negaunee Finishes Season 10-2 After Falling to Ithaca 62-34 on Saturday
Coach Paul Jacobson (right) doing his post-game interview with Jesse (left) and myself (middle).
NEGAUNEE, MI – The Negaunee Miners came into Saturday’s showdown with the Ithaca Yellowjackets as huge underdogs. Rightfully so, as no team has been able to beat them in their past 53 games. However, there was something that everybody forgot: The Miners are no easy out. Negaunee came out with a fire that was necessary to keep up with the Yellowjackets, and gave them everything they could handle through the first 12 minutes. After Ithaca scored on their first drive, Tyler LaJoie showed why he’s a legitimate college recruit by scoring three first quarter touchdowns in every aspect of the game. He rushed a touchdown in on the Miners first drive, then followed that up with a 50+-yard interception return. Later in the quarter, he picked up an Ithaca kickoff and ran it back for yet another touchdown. He truly stepped up to the challenge of being the leader of a team going up against an opponent with a Division-I committed quarterback and a 53-game win streak.
Unfortunately for the Miners, turnovers were their undoing. Uncharacteristically, Negaunee turned the ball over on an “option” pitch from Syrjala to LaJoie twice that was recovered by Ithaca. Syrjala threw two interceptions on the day and one in the second quarter down to the ten yard line, although it was a 3rd & 20 and a broken play, so it was essentially a punt. On another fumble for the Miners it was just bad luck. Tyler LaJoie was running, trying (successfully) to get a first down, when an Ithaca defender lunged at him and caught the ball perfectly with his helmet, jarring it loose. There was really nothing LaJoie could have done, just bad luck for Negaunee. Meanwhile, Ithaca threw three interceptions, but had the ball bounce their way every time the ball was put on the ground, whether it was by Negaunee or themselves. Sometimes that’s just the way the game goes. Now, I’m not saying that Negaunee was the better team, but they didn’t do themselves any favors once the first quarter ended. Ithaca was everything they were hyped up to be, scoring 42 of the games final 48 points. They will definitely be a force to be reckoned with moving forward to the semi-finals.
As for Negaunee, they have nothing to hang their heads about. They played a fantastic game, and nearly doubled the amount of points Ithaca had given up their previous 11 games (52). This senior class joins some elite company in Negaunee Miners football lore, having a combined record of 21-3 in their two years of varsity, and had one of the most explosive offenses to date, averaging a notch over 40 points per game. When I look back at my first season as the voice of the Negaunee Miners, it will not be looked upon as a “We came up short.” sort of thing, but as a fun and exciting team that almost ended the nations current longest high school winning streak on the road in the state quarter-finals. So as we say goodbye to the seniors that played on this team, as an alumni and fan, I’d just like to say what everybody in Neg-nation is thinking: Thank you for the great season and all of the exciting memories we will all share with you.
-Carl Leander Johnson II
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