BARAGA - After a 1-8 showing last season, the Baraga High School football team is trying to put the pieces back together this fall.
After all, BHS was coming off a 6-3 record - and a playoff appearance the year before - and had high hopes in 2011.
"Last season kind of came out of nowhere," BHS coach Doug Hodges said. "We had a really tough beginning .... and it was pretty much a downward spiral after that."
The 2012 Baraga Vikings: Pictured back row, from left, are assistant coach Tyler Larson, Nathan Stockton, Dustin Lindemann, Kodi Jahfetson, Sam Loonsfoot, Gary Loonsfoot, Bill Mayo, Taylor Lindemann, Brandon Nieskes and coach Doug Hodges. Pictured in the front row are Josh Mukka, Gavin Mleko, Mike Turunen, Kyle Moilanen, Jon Kaster, Alex Gabe, Corbin Crittenden and Dillon Huckstaedt. (Paul Peterson photo)
If the Vikes are to show improvement, they'll have to replace All-U.P. tackle Josh Turunen and center Jacob Goodreau.
"Those two (Turunen and Goodreau) were steady players for us, but I think we have some talent in the interior," Hodges said.
Senior center Bill Mayo (6-foot-1, 270 pound) is the lone holdover on the offensive line. Seniors Gary Loonsfoot (6-2, 235) and Alex Gabe will also be counted on to fill the void in the interior.
Fellow seniors Kodi Jahfetson (6-1, 250) and Brandon Nieskes (5-11, 205) are certain to play a lot. Josh Mukka, Nate Stockton and Kyle Moilanen are also battling for playing time.
"We won't be as big in the line as we were last year, but then again our size didn't help us that much," Hodges said. "Hopefully, we'll be a little quicker."
The Vikings appear to be a bit thin in the backfield, although quarterback Jon Kaster, a senior, is returning.
"I think Jon Kaster has worked on his passing in the off-season," Hodges said. "He looks better throwing the ball."
Senior tailback Gavin Mleko is also back for the Purple and Gold. The 5-10, 155-pounder led the team in rushing with just over 500 yards a year ago.
"Gavin (Mleko) has some decent quickness and we'll need him to have a good season running the football," Hodges said.
Two sophomores, Corbin Crittenden and Mike Turunen, will also get time in the backfield. Gabe and Mukka could see action at fullback as well. The end spots figure to be manned by Taylor Lindemann, Dillon Huckstaedt and Dustin Lindemann, but those players are largely untested.
Stopping opponents a year ago (they were outscored 235-80) was a problem for the Vikings. Hodges said that the interior of the defensive line will be manned by Mayo, Loonsfoot, Stockton and Jahfetson. Sam Loonsfoot is another possibility inside. The linebacker spots will likely be filled by Mukka, Gabe, Huckstaedt, Crittenden and Turunen. The secondary will probably be comprised of senior Chris Goodreau, Mleko, Kaster and Taylor Lindemann.