This grid season will be interesting/Paul Peterson
It seems like just last month the local football season ended.
But here we are again, a full slate of high school games starting on Thursday evening.
Starting with the preps, there appears to be at least three local teams who could make the playoffs.
Calumet, under John Croze, has reached the point where it merely reloads each season. But like last year, the Copper Kings have to survive a brutal opening trifecta that includes Eagle River, Wis., Negaunee and Ishpeming.
Croze is reputed to have a big and physical line that will make room for backs like Paul Torola, Chad Sturos and Braden Anderson. Jake Pieti will also be heard from at end.
L’Anse, which made the playoffs last year and defeated Forest Park, returns 17 lettermen. A dynamite backfield that includes tailbacks Jimmy Veker and Brandon Kemppainen and quarterback Jacob Ostermeyer, was bolstered when versatile Ryan LaBerge transferred from Houghton.
And there’s a huge line, anchored by 300-pound Alex Karcher, and 265-pound Keith Denomie. The LHS defense can’t allow opponents to run wild like Calumet, NP and North Dickinson did a year ago, however.
Absent from the playoffs two years running, Lake Linden-Hubbell appears primed to step back into the picture. Senior lineman Ryan Knoll (6-5, 245) leads what might be the Lakes’ biggest and deepest line corps in two decades.
Coach Andy Crouch will look to QB Mitch Kumpula to give the ball to a herd of small but speedy backs. Tyler Roose and Tylor Rickard are top threats running the ball. Konrad Klein is a capable tight end.
Hancock and Houghton showed improvement a year ago and may surprise some people this fall.
The Bulldogs lost All-WestPAC tailback Ross Michaels to graduation and that will hurt. But quarterback Tanner Kearly – a fine passer – is back for coach Matt Walter and he’ll have a large line blocking for him.
Houghton skipper Carl Borree’s team is struggling with numbers and the loss of LaBerge was a big one. Ben Collaer will be counted on in the backfield, but the Gremlins will need to play with the same fire they showed a year ago to improve.
On the college scene, look for Michigan Tech to have a good year. Junior QB Tyler Scarlett, who will likely break every passing record at MTU before he’s done, sparks the offense.
The Huskies’ defense includes former L’Anse standout Dan Perrault and Brett Gervais of Lake Linden-Hubbell. Coach Tom Kearly’s Huskies could also benefit from a favorable home schedule.
On the state scene, look for Michigan and Michigan State to be in the Big 10 race all the way.
The Wolverines have regained their former swagger under coach Brady Hoke and will return a number of veterans on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Devin Gardner has a number of reliable targets.
The Spartans have a consensus All-American in linebacker Max Bullough and one of the very best defenses in the nation. The QB situation, with erratic starter Andrew Maxwell, is the key to any postseason hopes. Mark down the UM at MSU game on Nov. 2 as a must-see.
Our two favorite NFL franchises, Green Bay and Detroit, have changed very little.
The Packers will be NFC Central favorites as long as they have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Rodgers gives the Pack a chance in any game.
This year, he’ll have promising rookie back Eddie Lacy to do the inside running. Defense remains a question mark in Titletown, especially in the secondary.
The Lions still have the top receiver in the game in Calvin Johnson, but quarterback Matthew Stafford was often inconsistent throwing the ball a year ago. New acquisition Reggie Bush could help the offense.
On defense, the Lions have tons of potential. But potential alone usually translates to a .500 season. That seems about right in Motown.