NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) – In 2023, the Negaunee Miners have picked up where they left off in their run to the State Championship game in 2022, with a 6-1 record so far on the season. After a tough 42-14 loss to Gladstone in Week 2, the team has won five straight, including wins over then-undefeated Kingsford and Menominee.

“I think it definitely woke us up,” said Senior Running Back Kai Lacar. “We saw the errors in our playing that we needed to fix and I think we just got after that and fixed those.

“Anytime you lose, you’ve got to kind of look at yourself what you’re doing, you know, as a team,” said Negaunee Offensive Coordinator Kevin Jacobson. “The players themselves had to do that as well. We were just making way too many mental mistakes, and I think the players took it upon themselves to really correct those mistakes.”

Since then, the Miners have scored an average of 34 points per game, relying on the passing game, rushing from senior running back Kai Lacar, and as Head Coach Paul Jacobson told us back in August, Senior Fullback James Thomson.

“Offensively, I don’t mind three yards every play. “We’re going to, I think, be a little more exciting at times this year with some of the things that we can do with some of the skill people, but stick to what works best,” Jacobson said. “I think James Thomson is one that’s going to turn some heads this year as well. We’re putting him in a different role, but he’s had a tremendous off-season and I think he’s going to really provide a different gear, a different thing than Kai Lacar.”

Previously playing as a tail back, injuries helped prompt Thomson into the role of fullback, one he’s quickly embraced playing alongside Lacar in backfield now on offense and defense.

“They’re both really hard workers,” Kevin Jacobson said. “All summer long, they put a lot of time in. James had a great summer, as did Kai, and James is really unselfish. He had to move positions this year, partly because of Kai, partly because of need. We had a few injuries and whatnot. So we talked to James early on about switching to fullback and James, being the team player that he is, had no problem switching to fullback even though he’s probably smaller than most fullbacks, it doesn’t affect him at all.”

I thought it was only going to be a couple of weeks, but it ended up being the rest of the season, and I’m happy with it,” Thomson said. “It’s fun playing, so I like being out on the field. I was definitely open to it. I was definitely hesitant about my size, just like everybody else. You know, I’m very undersized for fullback. But our offensive line has been stepping it up, which helps with blocking and, you know, Kai, he’s so good that my blocks don’t have to be perfect every time.”

Getting more experience by the week, game reps are helping the backfields to gel as the season goes on.

“I rely on him a lot because he’s a safety which is a pretty big spot for our team, Lacar said. “He has that fire, so he gets to the ball and gets his job done all the time. He’s definitely one of our top leaders. Every time someone hangs their head when we’re losing, he picks them up. He gets that fire into them. He makes sure that we’re all just focused and locked in.”

“When you’re a tailback, you have just that extra split second longer to see it. Fullback, it’s really quick, so I’ve been getting used to that,” Thomson said. “I felt like, finally, in Menominee I could see the holes better and I was hitting them better.”

With two games left, the team is determined to keep gaining steam as they aim to finish what they started in 2022.

“Just the mental, we’ve been growing mentally all year, that’s really where we’ve improved,” Thomson said. “And it’s great to see the growth. We’ve got a young team. It’s great to see the growth in them mentally, and if we continue that, I think we’ll be a really, really good team.”