The physical, smash-mouth brand of football the Calumet Copper Kings are known for was on full display Friday night at Agassiz Field. But it was the team in Orange and White who controlled the line of scrimmage and won the physical battle between the two traditional powerhouses.
The Hurley Midgets gained 295 yards on the ground while limiting Calumet to 70 yards rushing in a 32-26 West-PAC victory for the Midgets. Hurley (2-1, 1-1 West-PAC) finished five of its seven drives with touchdowns — including the final two, answering two Calumet (2-1, 1-1 West-PAC) touchdowns in the final six minutes.
“They had success whenever they needed success,” Calumet head coach John Croze said of Hurley. “It wasn’t necessarily in the middle, it was on the outside and on the pass, also.”
Despite a first half that saw his team accumulate 113 yards on the ground and gain a 14-6 lead, Hurley head coach Scott Erickson knew there was another level the Midgets’ run game could reach. So he challenged senior fullback Scott Subert at halftime to run inside with the ferocity that’s expected of him — and Subert responded, finishing with 164 yards and two touchdowns.
“Erickson came up to me and said that I’m tiptoeing through, and that if I don’t start hitting the hole hard like I normally do, he said it’s going to be a long night,” Subert said. “When I was tiptoeing, backside players were coming up from behind to tackle me, but when I hit it harder, I was running past those and broke out on a few.
“I take (the challenge) to heart. I wanted to do good to make the coaches happy. “
With Subert providing the inside force for Hurley’s Wing-T attack, senior quarterback Isaac DeCarlo and junior back Dakota Haanen found success on the edges. DeCarlo finished with 48 yards on nine carries, gaining the majority of those 48 on quarterback keepers while hiding the ball on his hip after carrying out his multiple fakes. And Haanen scored on runs of 29 and 16 off left tackle.
“We just watch who is making the tackles. If the ends are squeezing, we know that we can try to get outside,” Erickson said of his play-calling. “If they’re feathering outside, we’ll try to go inside. It’s just how we gameplan stuff.”
And if they can catch a defense off-guard with a pass, they’ll do that, too.
Despite passing just three times during the game, the Hurley passing game made its mark when DeCarlo connected with Haanen down the seam on a 53-yard touchdown for a 20-6 lead in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Calumet was never able to consistently get the push it needed on its offensive line to establish its running game. Hurley’s defensive ends also focused on containing the electric junior quarterback, Brent Loukus, on the option game, limiting Calumet’s ability to get outside along the edge. The result was just 2.9 yards per carry for the Copper Kings.
“We were going to try to make them stay between the tackles,” Erickson said. “We tried to make it tough in there and force it back inside. I don’t think they got to the outside all night.”
After opening the season with two dramatic wins, this was Calumet’s home debut in front of a local crowd anxious to get their first look at this year’s team that is predominantly made of juniors. The fans cheering the Blue and White saw some of the late-game electricity that has followed Calumet this season.
On the first play from scrimmage after DeCarlo’s and Haanen’s 53-yard score, Loukus found sophomore Sam Erkkila by himself in the left flat on a throwback pass; Erkkila made one cutback to juke a defender and outraced the Hurley defense for a 58-yard touchdown.
Once Hurley answered with a 10-play, 46-yard drive that was capped on a 1-yard run by Subert, Calumet immediately responded on the first play from scrimmage again. This time, Erikkila took a screen pass in the left flat and followed the downfield blocking of junior lineman Evan Ekdahl before running in for a 55-yard touchdown to cut Hurley’s lead to 26-20 with 6:35 remaining in the game.
“Hurley was playing up-in-your-face man, so we knew we had a chance to get the backs out of the backfield for some big gains,” Croze said. “Sam did a good job of catching the ball and getting it into the end zone for us.”
But Calumet had no answers for Hurley’s power-running attack, and Subert scored again from 1 yard out.
A pass interference and personal foul penalty preceded Loukus’ 25-yard touchdown pass to senior end Cooper Twardzik, but Hurley senior Arthur Johnson killed the comeback when he recovered the onside kick.
Loukus completed 5 of 7 passes for 155 yards and four touchdowns.
Next, Calumet hosts Houghton, while Hurley travels to Northland Pines on the same day.
Hurley 6 8 6 12 — 32
Calumet 0 6 8 12 — 26
H — Haanen 29-yard run (2-pt failed), 6-0, 6:22
C — Loukus to Twardzik on 4-yard pass (2-pt no good), 6-6, 11:14
H — Haanen 16-yard run (2-pt good), 14-6, 4:52
H — DeCarlo to Haanen on 53-yard pass (2-pt no good), 20-6, 5:15
C — Loukus to Erikkila for 58-yard pass (2-pt good), 20-14, 4:25
H — Subert 1-yard run (2-pt no good), 26-14, 6:46
C — Loukus to Erikkila on 55-yard pass (2-pt no good), 26-20, 6:35
H — Subert 1-yard run (2-pt no good), 32-20, 2:07
C — Loukus to Twardzik on 25-yard pass (2-pt no good), 32-26, 1:50
Hurley 360 yards (295 rushing, 65 passing); Calumet 214 yards (70 rushing, 144 passing)
Hurley — Subert 26-164-2, Haanen 10-58-2, DeCarlo 9-48-0, Henning 9-17-0; Calumet — Loukus 11-35-0, Hendrickson 6-29-0, Ojala 5-10-0, Erkkila 1-1-0, Twardzik 1- -5-0.
Hurley — DeCarlo 2-3-65-1-0; Calumet — 5-7-155-4-0.
Hurley — Haanen 1-53-1; Johnson 1-12-0; Calumet — Erkkila 2-113-2, Twardzik 3-42-2.