Prep football: LaJoie runs through big holes in Negaunee’s rout of Gwinn

GWINN – Negaunee’s offensive linemen didn’t put out a red carpet in Gwinn on Friday night, but the grass-line path they created worked just as well for their top senior running back.

Tyler LaJoie scored five touchdowns, four on the ground on runs ranging from 15 to 80 yards, as the Miners blew past the depleted Modeltowners, 41-6, to improve to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the Mid-Peninsula Conference.

LaJoie finished with 215 yards rushing on just nine carries while catching both of junior quarterback Ryan Syrjala’s completions for another 54 yards. That was a 24.5-yard average every time he touched the ball.

LaJoie also made an interception late in the first half that was erased on a penalty.

“Tyler had a tremendous game,” NHS coach Paul Jacobson said. “Coupled with the play of our offensive line, we executed very well and played very hard.”

Several of LaJoie’s TDs came when he broke untouched past the line of scrimmage and through Gwinn’s first line of defense. No one else came close as he made a beeline for the end zone.

“I gotta give all the credit to my linemen,” LaJoie said. “We’d put some receivers in motion, and that would pull their secondary to the edges and leave the middle open.”

Two of those linemen explained their strategy, with starting junior center Hunter Ridley saying he would take out the first man, then senior right guard Tyler Thomas would block to his left to open a gaping hole in the middle.

“We do a lot of pulling with our blocks,” Ridley said.

“That would open holes in the center of the line,” Thomas added. “They tried to adjust to it, but we were still able to do it. You just have to make sure to get low.”

Just as the Modeltowners (2-3 overall, 1-2 in M-PC) made some adjustments to shore up their defense, the offense bogged down when injuries knocked out key players.

The more severe injury was suffered by senior Luke Sinnaeve, one of the team’s two workhouse running backs. The son of head coach Darren Sinnaeve suffered a suspected torn ACL in his left knee that would assuredly end his season.

Quarterback Justin Nyquist also went down, leaving Gwinn without a true QB.

The Modeltowners spent most of the second half directly snapping the ball to senior Owen DeVooght or senior Ringo McPherson, tasting success when DeVooght scored their only touchdown on a 7-yard run less than a minute into the fourth quarter.

Because the two-point conversion run failed, the running clock that went into effect a few minutes earlier remained that way the rest of the game.

DeVooght was a workhorse, rushing for 143 yards on 26 attempts, the same number of offensive plays run the entire game by Negaunee.

The Miners didn’t need any more than that, considering that every first-half possession lasted no more than four plays before they ripped off a long TD.

After Gwinn ate up nearly seven minutes with a 10-play drive to open the game, LaJoie broke through a hole in the line on the third play for a 66-yard score.

On their next possession, Negaunee coach Paul Jacobson decided to go for it on fourth-and-10 just past midfield. Syrjala found LaJoie on a screen pass in the middle of the field and the senior back juked left and then right to turn it into a 43-yard TD.

Negaunee junior Cole Francis blocked Gwinn’s punt on its ensuing possession and senior teammate Tyler Windahl cashed in on the first play with a 35-yard score around the left end to make it 18-0.

The Miners got the ball back one more time deep in their own end four minutes before halftime. Though Jacobson played it safe with several runs up the middle, on third down, LaJoie quickly broke free and ran virtually untouched 80 yards for yet another TD. Syrjala’s PAT run made it 26-0.