By RON DEUTER
IRON MOUNTAIN - Iron Mountain makes its third trip to Marquette County in four weeks Friday night when the Mountaineers face Negaunee, the team which eliminated Iron Mountain from the playoffs last season.
"Negaunee is a real good football team that is 3-0," Mountaineers coach Robin Marttila said. "It'll be a great test for us, and we have to play well to give ourselves a chance to win."
The Miners have posted victories against Manistique (36-30), Calumet (38-16) and Gladstone (38-0). They racked up 318 yards of offense in the shutout against Gladstone last week, holding the Braves under 100 yards. Tailback Tyler LaJoie ran for 156 and three touchdowns.
"He was all conference as a junior," Marttila said of LaJoie. "He is a real good football player in space, a real good runner. Every one knows the goal is to try to stop him."
Junior quarterback Ryan Syrjala guides the Miners' option offense this season. He was 4-of-5 for 85 yards throwing last week, including a couple of big gainers to Zane Radloff, who caught a big touchdown in the Miners 20-0 playoff win over Iron Mountain last season.
"We got better as a team from last week. We made some improvements," Negaunee coach Paul Jacobson told the Daily Press after the Gladstone win. "I thought the guys executed very well on offense and defense."
The biggest question facing the Mountaineers entering this Week 4 matchup is the status of top back James Christiansen. Hurting his hip and missing the second half of last week's loss against West Iron County, Christiansen will most likely be a game-time decision.
"The trainers have been working with him," Marttila said. "He's a big part of our team and not having him on the field hurt us last week. But as a coach you need to plan for the possibility of him not playing, or anyone getting injured. Injuries happen in the game of football. You put someone else out there and do th best you can."
That someone else, if Christiansen can't go, will be junior David Mielcarek.
"He's played fullbacks for two years at the lower levels," Marttila said. "And he's got reps there this season."
Friday's game marks the last trip out of town for the Mountaineers (1-2) this regular season. Iron Mountain returns home to host Westwood next week and only leaves Mountaineer Stadium one more time, to face rival Kingsford on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Next week the Mountaineers plan to honor the 1993 state champion team prior to kickoff.