Prep football: LaJoie powers Negaunee past Calumet Copper Kings 38-16

NEGAUNEE – Efficient. Productive. Lethal.

All three words describe the Negaunee High School football team’s offense Friday night in the Miners’ 38-16 non-conference victory over visiting Calumet.

Rolling up 345 total yards and scoring five of the six times it had the ball, NHS used tailback Tyler LaJoie’s 132 yards rushing and three touchdowns to improve to 2-0 this season.

“Fortunately, we executed well,” Miners’ head coach Paul Jacobson said. “We worked hard and prepared well all week in practice.”

LaJoie scored on runs of 60, 17 and one yard in his 14 carries over 2 1/2 quarters of work on Parents’ Night.

“He has some speed,” Jacobson said. “You give him a crease and he can exploit it.”

Said Calumet head coach John Croze: “The kid made the plays. You give him a seam and he knows how to take advantage of it.”

The Copper Kings (0-2) opened the game with a crisp and methodical 12-play drive in 6:07 to take an 8-0 lead. A 20-yard run by quarterback Paul Torola and a 19-yard pass from Torola to Jacob Pieti set up a 5-yard scoring toss from Torola to Pieti.

But Calumet’s enjoyment was short-lived as LaJoie sprinted 60 yards on Negaunee’s first play from scrimmage for a touchdown to tie the score.

“All my linemen executed well,” LaJoie said. “It was a quick opener and no one touched me.”

A Jeremy Bell fumble recovery led to Negaunee’s second score, a 17-yard power run by LaJoie which saw the senior bounce off several would-be tacklers to reach paydirt.

“I just kept my legs moving … and ran hard,” LaJoie said.

Croze said the Calumet turnover may have been the crucial point of the game.

“When we fumbled after scoring on our first drive, it took the wind out of our sails,” he said. “You can’t make mistakes with a team like Negaunee.”

Tyler Windahl made it 24-8 Negaunee at the half with a 1-yard scoring plunge with 1:13 left. It was set up, in part, by a 40-yard pass from QB Ryan Syrjala to NHS basketball star Tyler Jandron in the senior’s first varsity football game.

“Those two second quarter scores were key,” Jacobson said. “Then we scored right away in the second half.”

LaJoie scored from a yard out just 3:59 into the third quarter to make it 30-8. A 33-yard reception by Zane Radloff keyed the 55-yard drive.

“Negaunee’s big and strong and they just beat us up front,” Croze said. “But we were scrappy and I loved our attitude right until the end of the game.”

Torola completed 7 of 12 passes for 108 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also led his team with 80 yards rushing in 10 attempts.

Teammate Tyler Roland chipped in 68 yards rushing in 11 attempts.

Windahl complemented LaJoie with 12 carries for 69 yards.