LAKE LINDEN —The Gogebic Miners stormed back with 20 fourth-quarter points, but it wasn’t enough to avoid their first loss of the season Saturday.
The Miners have come back from halftime deficits in two of their three wins this year, but spotting Lake Linden a 16-0 first-quarter lead, in Lake Linden, bit Gogebic in the end as the Lakes held on for a 22-20 Great Western Conference victory.
The Miners had a chance to tie the game after Paul Buerger ran two yards for a touchdown with 1:13 left in the game. The Lakes stuffed his two-point conversion run attempt, though, and ran out the clock from there.
Gogebic coach Mark Mazzon said the team didn’t change anything for the second half; the Miners, ranked No. 4 in Division 8 in the Upper Peninsula, just played harder than they did in the first half.
“Give them a lot of credit; they came to play in the first half and we didn’t in the first half,” Mazzon said. “We laid an egg. Second half, we finally showed up and fought to the bitter end. I give our kids credit and I give them credit for giving it all throughout the whole game.”
It was an exciting fourth quarter of a game the Lakes won despite losing four fumbles, two of which led to Gogebic touchdowns. The Miners, though, lost two fumbles, one in the red zone in the third quarter, and threw a fourth-quarter interception after their offense sputtered through the first half.
No matter how ugly it was, Lake Linden (2-2) needed the win after losing to Hurley and North Central at home in back-to-back weeks. The urgency showed in its start Saturday.
“We’ve had our backs up against the wall the last two weeks and I think our kids were ready to play, prepared and our kids came out and executed like they were supposed to,” Lake Linden coach Andy Crouch said. “Unfortunately we started putting the ball on the ground and we let Gogebic stay in the game.”
After trading fumbles in the third quarter, the Miners took advantage of Lake Linden’s turnover. They finally got on the scoreboard 35 seconds into the fourth quarter when Jess Mazzon rushed eight yards for a touchdown. Buerger’s two-point run brought Gogebic within 16-8.
Lake Linden recovered Gogebic’s onside kick at its own 46. On third-and-2, the Lakes’ Tyler Roose broke for a 46-yard touchdown, Lake Linden’s first score since the first quarter. The Lakes led 22-8 with 9:53 to go.
“It was good for us to answer,” Crouch said. “It was a regular downhill play. We blocked it real well and Tyler had a nice run and outran the defense again. It was good for our psyche to answer the bell.”
Gogebic scored again – quickly - on the ensuing drive. Just 1:38 and eight plays later, Gogebic quarterback Ben Zielinski hit Kevin Lane for a 26-yard touchdown with 7:15 to go. The pass failed on the two-point try and Gogebic trailed 22-14.
Lake Linden got the ball back and fumbled for the third time three plays later; it was recovered by Lance Berwald. The Miners had the ball on the Lakes’ 34 and Zielinski threw an interception on the first play of the drive.
With 5:14 left, it appeared time for a patented Lake Linden drive – keep the chains moving, keep the ball away from you, run out the clock. But that’s hard to do when you keep fumbling it away. The Lakes got a first down and had third and three on their own 31 when they fumbled – again.
“The fumbles put us behind the eight ball,” Crouch said. “Maybe it would have gone a little bit differently had we not fumbled the ball, but it’s something we’ll have to address this week and try to prevent from happening again.”
That gave Gogebic the ball back with 2:37 left and Buerger punched it in with 1:13 left on a two-yard run to pull Gogebic within 22-20. But on the two-point conversion try needed to force overtime, Lakes’ senior Ryan Knoll got off the ball in a hurry and stuffed Buerger well before the end zone.
“I give our kids credit for not giving up and fighting until the bitter end,” Mazzon said. “They had chance to at least tie it. We were just a little short at it.”
The Lakes had no problem with the Gogebic onside kick and were able to kneel down three times.
The Miners passed well with Zielinski going 13 for 19 and 170 yards. Mazzon had a huge day, catching nine of those passes for 131 yards. His ankle was injured on the Miners’ final drive of the game.
The Lakes held them to just 38 yards rushing and rushed for 246 yards on 38 carries.
Much of Gogebic’s offense came in the second half.
“We just started blocking a little better, running a little harder, threw the ball very well,” Mazzon said. “We got some passes in the first half, but (Zielinski) settled down. Our backs started blocking better in the second half, giving him that extra second to get the ball off.”
Crouch said the Lakes’ pass coverage wasn’t very good in the second half.
“We did not do a good job of playing the ball,” he said. “I’m going to blame our defensive backs coach on that one (himself). If we would have picked off a couple of those passes, a couple of them were third-and-long, it would have changed the outcome, too.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Miners (3-1), who travel to Hurley Friday.
Gogebic 0 0 0 20 — 20
Lake Linden 16 0 0 6 — 22
LL – Tyler Roose 6 run (Cole Beauchamp run), 5:38
LL – Roose 45 pass from Mitchel Kumpula (Beauchamp run), :17.6
Gog – Jess Mazzon 8 run (Paul Buerger run), 11:25
LL – Roose 46 run (run failed), 9:53
Gog – Kevin Lane 26 pass from Ben Zielinski (pass failed), 7:15
Gog – Buerger 2 run (run failed), 1:13
First downs 11 9
Jason Juno/Daily Globe
GOGEBIC MINERS' Jess Mazzon rushes for the team's first touchdown of the day, an eight-yard run with 11:25 left in the fourth quarter Saturday at Lake Linden. The Lakes' Cole Beauchamp tries to wrap him up. Lake Linden-Hubbell won 22-20.
Rushes-yard 33-38 38-246
Comp-Att-Int 13-19-1 2-3-0
Passing 170 88
Total yards 208 334
Fumbles-lost 4-2 4-4
Penalties-yards 7-45 8-70
Rushing — Gogebic, Jess Mazzon 11-38. Lake Linden, Tyler Roose 12-101, Cole Beauchamp 14-93.
Passing — Gogebic, Ben Zielinski, 13-19-170-1. Lake Linden, Mitchel Kumpula 2-3-88-0.
Receiving —‚ Gogebic, Jess Mazzon 9-131, Kevin Lane 1-26. Lake Linden, Tyler Roose 1-45, Lucas Klein 1-43.