Calumet keeps Braves winless in nailbiter

CALUMET – They may have had just one win between them this season, but Calumet and Gladstone played an entertaining football game Friday night at Aggasiz Field.

The Copper Kings escaped with a 36-32 victory on a cold and wind-swept evening, giving them victories in their final two contests to finish with a 2-7 mark.

“Our kids played hardnosed football right along,” CHS skipper John Croze said afterward. “We dealt with adversity all season and we kept grinding it out. I’m happy for our seniors to get these last two wins. I’m darned proud of all these kids.”

In the end, it was a battle between two outstanding backs, Calumet’s Robert Erkkkila and Gladstone’s Tyler Wells.

Erkkila scored four times and rushed for 155 yards, while Wells also accounted for four scores, rushed for 112 yards and passed for 125 more.

For Erkkila, just a sophomore, it gave him eight TDs in the last two games.

“We have some fine sophomore players, we’re excited about the future,” Croze acknowledged. “But tonight, it was about our seniors.”

The ‘Kings took the opening kickoff and marched in for a score. Kaden Kangas scooted in from three yards out and Erkkila added the PAT on a run.

Gladstone, closing at 0-9, came right back on a 55-yard by Pete Weyers, but missed the PAT attempt.

Calumet had an immediate answer as Erkkila scored from 11 yards out for a 14-6 lead — only to have Riley Ballard of the Braves peel off a 61-yard scoring run shortly afterward for a 14-12 reading.

Erkkila was back at it before the first period ended, dashing in from 25 yards out for a 20-12 CHS lead.

The scoring pace slowed down in the second quarter, both teams tallying one TD apiece.

Wells scored on a 44-yard run on the first play of the second quarter to cut the margin to 20-18.

The Copper Kings answered back when Erkkila leaped in from four yards out and Tyler Luokus added the two-pointer on a run for a 28-18 at the half.

The Cody Kangas-coached Braves drew first blood in the second half when Wells went in from a yard away and the two-point run by Sam Pouliot for a 28-26 count.

Calumet was able to overcome a successful onside kick by Gladstone on the ensuing kickoff and then thwarted a fake punt try to get the ball at the GL-31.

The northend crew put it out of reach when Erkkila scooted in from three yards away and Luokus tacked on the two-point run for a 36-26 spread.

After a Calumet fumble at its own 30, the Braves made it 36-32 with 2:43 left on a 1-yard run by Wells.

But an onside kick was recovered by the ‘Kings, who held off one last desperate pass by GHS in the waning seconds.

Although they will miss the playoffs for the first time in several years, CHS has something to build on for next season.