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Friday November 15, 2019
'We Gave The Game Away': Braves Fall In Negaunee

NEGAUNEE----They all sat there in front of their lockers, shaking their heads, with frowns on their faces and sweat drops falling onto their shoulders.

The Gladstone High School football players had just gone through a war at the Negaunee High School football field, and the boys in Purple and White had won most of the battles all night long.

But in the final six minutes of the game, everything fell apart, and the Braves lost to the Miners, 36-34. They were sad, mad, stunned, depressed...all at once.

"Plain and simple, we gave away the game," Gladstone Coach Josh Mileski said. "We played well. We just found a way to lose this game in the last couple of minutes."

Kickoff time for the Braves Friday night.
So, what happened? Well, the Braves outplayed the Miners for most of the night, and had leads of 28-14 and 34-22 in the fourth quarter.

But the leads didn't hold up because of several mistakes on special teams, and one bad offensive snap at a really bad time. The Braves had a 21-14 lead at halftime, and then when the boys were comimg out to start the third quarter, one of the referees noticed lightening in the distance.

The storm was nowhere near the field, but the Michigan High School Athletic Association rules are specific: 30- minute delay until there is no lightening.

The delay did not hurt the Braves as they took the second half kickoff and drove 71 yards in 12 plays, with senior Jared Vuksan getting much of the work. He has played at the tackle position in the "spread" offense this season, but on this night, Vuksan became the featured back as the Miners had no answer for his cannonball-type running.

Dusty Goupille touchdown run for Negaunee.
Vuksan scored from five yards out, and he kicked the extra point himself. The Braves led, 28-14, and they had used up half of the third quarter clock with that drive.

Negaunee got the ball back and marched up field, but Riley Ballard recovered a Negaunee fumble at the Braves 25 yard-line. So, Gladstone was up by 14 points and had the ball late in the third quarter. But, this opportunity to ice the game was missed when Justin Jurek fumbled four plays later as the sophomore was fighting for extra yardage.

Measurement gives Gladstone a first down!
The Gladstone defense forced the Miners into a 4th-and-11 situation as we played the early moments of the fourth quarter. But Negaunee stayed alive when quarterback Tanner Uren stepped up and found Brock Weaver between two defenders for a TD.

"Their quarterback did a nice job of stepping up in the pocket there," Mileski said. "We probably should have had him for a sack. Nice job on their guys to make a play."

That brought the Miners to within 28-20, and Uren passed to Andrew Katona for the two-point play to bring Negaunee to within 28-22 with 10:07 left in the game.

Gladstone seemingly had the answer, though, as Pouliot hooked up with Justin Pederson for a 49-yard touchdown strike. It was their second TD connection of the game, and even though the PAT was no good, Gladstone had a 34-22 lead.

Sam Pouliot to Justin Pederson TD pass
And things looked even better moments later when Riley Ballard picked off a pass deep in Braves territory.

So, Gladstone had the ball at its own three yard line, leading by two scores, and the "beast" Vuksan in the backfield, a kid that Negaunee couldn't stop. Vuksan got the call on the first play and he ran for a yard. He limped off the field, however, and had to sit out a play. This is when the disaster began for the Braves.

They had to switch from the I-formation to the shotgun. And the snap from center went over quarterback Sam Pouliot's head into the end zone. Francis found it for a touchdown.That brought Negaunee to within 34-28 with 5:46 left in the game.

Scoreboard was in Braves' favor.
The bad snap became a turning point in the game, because the Braves would have at least been able to run down the clock before punting to the Miners. With a 12-point lead.

Instead, the lead was just six points, and the Miners had the momentum.

And, if you can believe it, things got worse. On the ensuing kickoff, the ball came to Jared Syverson, and he went down on a knee on his own three yard-line. What happened?

"We were expecting an on-sides kick," Mileski said. "They kicked it deep, and we had a mental error."

So, the Braves tried to dig out of that hole, and a couple of tough runs by Vuksan got his team a first down. But moments later, on third-and-six, the Miners got a big defensive play as Dusty Goupille sacked Pouliot with 2:55 left in the game.

"We tried to run a boot and they brought two on the edge," Mileski said. "Good play call on their part. Congratulations to Negaunee."

Christian Tackman's punt was a low line-drive that Francis easily returned to the Braves 25 yard-line.

Uren scrambled for seven yards, and then Goupille blasted up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown run to tie the game with 2:14 left.

And then Lajoie scored the two-point conversion by cutting back against the grain.

Negaunee was ahead now, 36-34, but the Braves still had one last gasp.

But on first down from the 34 yard-line, Pouliot's pass for Justin Pederson was underthrown, and was intercepted by Katona.

That pretty much ended the game. Heartbreaking.

Vuksan ended up with 94 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.

Alternative content

Jared Vukson TD #2
"He had a heck of a game, and our line blocked well," Mileski said. "You're simply not gonna find a better football player in (U.P.) high school than him. We did some positive things. We have a very good footbal team."

"But we can't make the mistakes that we did and expect to win the game."

In the first half, Negaunee took the opening kickoff and drove to the Gladstone 11-yard line before the defense stopped Francis on a 4th-and-short play.

The Braves then went on an 88-yard, 10-play drive that ended on a 20-yard TD pass from Pouliot to Pederson.

The game went back and forth from there until the Braves took a 21-14 lead into the locker room on a Vuksan 10-yard TD run with 29 seconds left.

Gladstone had 345 yards in total offense, with Pouliot completing 7-of-12 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns.  Vuksan had 94 yards rushing on 23 carries.

The Braves will play their third straight road game next Friday night in Menominee.

Game time is 8:00. It will be broadcast live on WGKL-FM (105.5), WCHT-AM (600), and on-line at www.rrnsports.com, starting at 7:45 Eastern time.

You can click the thumbnails in the "ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS" box to see pictures and videos, and listen to audio highlights and interviews.

Choose team:
Date Time Opponent Score Record
7:00 PM
Gwinn Model Towners
49 - 12 (W)
7:00 PM
at Bark River-Harris Broncos
34 - 6 (W)
7:30 PM
at Negaunee Miners
34 - 36 (L)
8:00 PM
at Menominee Maroons
6 - 47 (L)
7:00 PM
Marquette Redmen
14 - 35 (L)
7:00 PM
at Sault Ste. Marie Blue Devils
19 - 49 (L)
7:00 PM
Escanaba Eskymos
25 - 37 (L)
7:30 PM
at Kingsford Flivvers
28 - 49 (L)
7:00 PM
Calumet Copper Kings
12 - 36 (L)

Kangas Hired To Be New Gladstone Football Coach
Thursday June 27, 2013
Gladstone's Vuksan To NMU; Esky's Falish To Tech
Wednesday February 6, 2013
Gladstone School Board Dismisses Football Coach
Monday November 12, 2012
Braves Season Ends As Copper Kings Make Playoffs
Thursday October 18, 2012
Braves Can't Overcome Early Deficit In Kingsford
Friday October 12, 2012
Eskymo Freshmen Complete Football Sweep, 32-26
Saturday October 6, 2012
Falish Shines As Eskymos Win Delta County Battle
Friday October 5, 2012
Eskymos Beat Braves For First JV Football Victory
Thursday October 4, 2012
Braves Flattened In Soo; Losing Skid Reaches Four
Saturday September 29, 2012
Homecoming Loss: Marquette Powers Past Braves
Friday September 21, 2012
Maroons Flatten Braves In Conference Opener, 47-6
Friday September 14, 2012
Big Plays Lead Gladstone Past Bark River-Harris
Saturday September 1, 2012
Gladstone Braves Finally Taste A Football Victory!
Friday August 24, 2012