NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) – The Negaunee Miners are back to work building their foundation for the 2022 season.

“This is what you look forward to,” said Paul Jacobson, the head coach for the Miners. “The only thing better than this is the Friday nights under the lights. This is what you spend all summer working towards. There are roughly 612 teams in the state of Michigan that are practicing right now. I mean, it’s the right of passage and we’re happy to be out here on the field.”

The Miners welcome back a strong senior class who saw a lot of playing time as juniors last season.

“We got quite a few seniors that are going to step into leadership roles that are a little bit different than last year,” said Jacobson. “Phil Nelson was a name that popped onto people’s radars last year at receiver and defensive back, he’s returning for us. Drake Spickerman up front, Nico Lukkarinen a fullback and linebacker, Eli Vanburen. A lot of guys had a lot of opportunities last year to start both ways and make big impacts on our team and we’re looking forward to them carrying that over this season.”

“We’re definitely pumped,” said Philip Nelson, a senior receiver and defensive back for the Miners. “It’s been a long summer that’s for sure. Our whole grade has been waiting for our senior year and we’ve been expecting to be good and we have a lot of experience coming in so we’re really pumped.”

Early in camp, it’s all about the mental reps for Negaunee as they wait to strap on the pads later this week.

“I think the biggest thing that we got to focus on right now is taking care of the little things,” said Jacobson. “Making sure that we’re doing the little things right. That’s the biggest thing between an inexperienced team and a veteran team is being able to remember where we were last year as a young team and knowing where we are right now and what we have to do to get better and where we want to be.”

The most significant question mark for the Miners this season comes at the quarterback position. With the departure of two-year starter Gerald Johnson, Negaunee will have a new name under center this season.

“Gerald was an outstanding kid,” said Jacobson. “On and off the field I couldn’t ask for a better person. He really I think set the bar high for quarterbacks to come. This year we’re relying on two. We have Easton Palomaki who was an All-U.P. tailback for us last year, he’s going to be taking some snaps for us as well as sophomore Ty Jacobson.”

One thing that should help the quarterback transition, is a talented offensive line who has a lot of incentive to protect their signal caller.

“We’ve been in the weight room all offseason and we’ve been putting up some heavy numbers,” said Drake Spickerman a senior lineman for the Miners. “We’ve got a big senior line and we got a lot of experience up front and I think we’re going to do a pretty good job this year. I made a bet with Ty Jacobson that if we don’t let up 5 sacks he is taking the offensive line to Elizabeth’s Chophouse in Marquette so we’re excited about that.”

Whether it’s Jacobson or Palomaki taking the snaps, they’ll have a big-time target to throw the ball to. Philip Nelson returns for his senior season. The talented receiver has the ability to find the endzone every time he touches the ball. He’s not too bad on defense either. He was named to the All-U.P. Dream Team last season as a defensive back.

“You know he takes care of the little things really well,” said Jacobson. “He’s a tremendous athlete first off all, but just his work ethic and his attention to detail I think has really been able to set him apart early on.”

“For me, it’s not as much personal achievements as much as it’s like the team,” said Nelson. “You got to make your around you better, people around you better and that’s what I like to do is make people around me better. “

The Miners kick off their season at home against Iron Mountain on August 25.