Braves’ season ended by Miners

GLADSTONE — A spirited comeback came up short for the Gladstone Braves here Friday night in a 28-14 football loss to the Negaunee Miners in a Division 6 playoff opener.

Negaunee (4-3) visits Westwood (5-1) in a district match-up next weekend. The Braves finished 2-4.

The Miners all but secured the decision on Gerald Johnson’s 15-yard touchdown pass through the middle to Joe Mallett with two minutes, 25 seconds remaining in the contest.

Gladstone wasn’t quite through, however, as senior running back Ryan Polley returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the Negaunee 19-yard line.

Polley then scampered for an apparent touchdown on the next play, but it was nullified by an illegal block, which moved the ball back to the 35.

The final drive eventually stalled at the 35, enabling the Miners to go into victory formation.

“We’ve been able to get some guys together and build some continuity,” said Negaunee coach Paul Jacobson. “We lost one of our starting quarterback Will Luke in the first meeting (a 22-20 loss Sept. 25). It made things tough, but the guys are resilient. We’ve had so many ups and downs since March 13 (due to Covid-19). We’re just enjoying the moment because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

Negaunee gained a seemingly comfortable 21-6 advantage on senior running back Lukas Nelson’s nine-yard burst up the middle with 7:59 left to play.

The Braves responded quickly, climbing within 21-14 on Polley’s 31-yard dash around right end at 7:15.

“Ryan is a heck of a ballplayer,” said Braves’ coach Jeff Hansen. “He just played his heart out, trying to help his team win. We were still playing with confidence at that point, but we were a little on offense. Getting that touchdown called back really hurt us. Hats off to Negaunee. At the end of the day, they were the more consistent team.”

Gladstone presented itself with an opportunity midway through the fourth quarter when senior defensive back Zac Brazeau recovered a fumble on the Negaunee 35.

The Braves, however, were unable to take advantage and turned the ball over on downs at the 32.

Negaunee took a 7-0 lead on a six-yard run off left tackle by senior running back Nash Hillier with 8:25 left in the second quarter.

The Braves then moved within 7-6 on a 38-yard on junior quarterback Cam Kelly’s 38-yard pass to senior split end Cam Ballard at 4:31.

Negaunee pushed its lead to 14-6 on Nelson’s nine-yard run up the middle midway through the third stanza.

The Miners rushed for 181 of their 246 yards. Hillier carried 25 times for 107, and Nelson ran 12 times for 62, including a 46-yard burst through the middle to the Braves’ 15 to set up Mallett’s game-clinching TD reception. Johnson was 6-of-13 passing for 65 and an interception.

Gladstone was limited to 46 yards on the ground, and Kelly hit 7-of-27 aerials for 121 and an interception. One of Kelly’s passes went 45 yards to junior John Hansen, setting up Polley’s TD run. Polley finished with 60 yards on 12 carries.

“We’re proud of the kids and what they accomplished,” said Hansen. “The lasting legacy of this group is they’re tough and never gave up.”

Negaunee 0 7 7 14 — 28

Gladstone 0 6 0 8 — 14

Scoring plays:

Second quarter

N — Hillier, six-yard run (Mallett kick), 8:25

G — Kelly, 38-yard pass to Ballard (conversion failed), 4:31

Third quarter

N — Nelson, five-yard run (Mallett kick), 6:52

Fourth quarter

N — Nelson, nine-yard run (Mallett kick), 7:59

G — Polley, 31-yard run (Polley run), 7:15

N — Johnson, 15-yard pass to Mallett (Mallett kick), 2:25


Total offense: Negaunee 246 yards (181 rushing, 65 passing); Gladstone 167 yards (46 rushing, 121 passing).

Rushing: Negaunee (Hillier 25-107, Nelson 12-62, Johnson 8-12); Gladstone (Polley 12-60, Servant 2-1, Kelly 4-minus-15).

Passing: Negaunee (Johnson 6-13, one interception); Gladstone (Kelly 7-27, one interception)

Receiving: Negaunee (Mallett 4-48, Belanger 2-17); Gladstone (Hansen 2-54, Ballard 1-38, Sundquist 1-18, Vitito 1-9, Servant 1-3, Polley 1-minus-1).

See photos we couldn’t fit in the paper at our Instagram: instagram.com/escanabadailypress/


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