NEGAUNEE - They met earlier this season, with the Negaunee High School football Miners squeezing out a 12-7 victory in Calumet on Aug. 30.
Friday, the two teams will meet again, this time at 7 p.m. in the MHSAA Division 6, Region 1, District 1 championship game.
"It's always nice to play a team a second time," Miners' head coach Paul Jacobson said Wednesday. "But we're just fortunate to play another week in the playoffs."
Negaunee junior running back Tyler LaJoie rushed for 138 yards on 16 carries last week in the Miners’ 20-0 MHSAA Division 6 pre-district victory over Iron Mountain in Negaunee. The Miners host Calumet in a rematch at 7 p.m. Friday in the district final. (Journal photo by Zach?Jay)
The Copper Kings (7-3) of head coach John Croze beat visiting Manistique last Friday, 45-0, to advance. The Miners (9-1), meanwhile, stopped Iron Mountain, 20-0, in pre-district action.
"They're a good football team," Jacobson said of the Copper Kings. "They have a solid defense and they're good at what they do offensively.
"They're a lot like us offensively. They're an I-option team that mixes in the pass well."
Senior quarterback James Sturos (5-11, 170 senior) ran 71 times for 401 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season with the help of All-Upper Peninsula Large School guard Anders Bjorn (6-0, 190 senior).
Sturos also passed for 511 yards and five scores.
Defensively, the Copper Kings feature U.P. Defensive Player of the Year Clark Kangas, a 6-0, 185-pound senior linebacker. He made 131 tackles (61 solo and 17 for a loss) and three sacks.
The Miners also boast a stout defense, led by All-Class tackle Alex Dempsey (6-0, 225 senior), and All-U.P. performers Adam Francis (6-0, 195 senior) at linebacker and Tyler LaJoie (5-10, 165 junior) at defensive back.
Dempsey produced 68 tackles, six sacks and recovered five fumbles during the regular season.
Francis recorded 112 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions; LaJoie came up with two interceptions and 64 tackles.
"We're playing good defense right now," Jacobson said. "I'd like to think we're executing well on the defensive side of the ball."
Offensively, the Miners count on QB Tanner Uren (6-2, 185 senior) to lead the way. He completed 38 passes for 676 yards and 11 TDs while gaining 307 yards rushing and scoring five times.
"The biggest thing is to control the ball and keep it out of (Calumet's ) hands," Jacobson said. "That will be hard to do against their defense.
"We're just going to have to maximize our (offensive) opportunities."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.