BARAGA - New Baraga High School football coach Eric DeMink could be facing one of the tougher challenges in the Upper Peninsula this coming season. DeMink will be working with a squad of 17 players and one that includes just three seniors.
"We're going to be very young," DeMink said. "But I like the attitude and teamwork I've seen so far. We all realize we're trying to rebuild the program."
Coming off an 0-9 season last fall, the Vikings could face some tough sailing in the tough Great Western Conference.
The 2013 Baraga Vikings: Back row, from left, assistant coach Jon Boever, Kyle Desrochers, William Reynolds, Nate Miron, Lucas Coffey, Alan Desrochers, Sean Stockton, Nate Stockton and head coach Eric DeMink; front row, from left, assistant coach Jordan Hoover, Taylor Mayo, Corbin Crittenden, Casey Chagnon, Austin Smith, Eddie Ling, Dillon Huckstaedt, Michael Turunen and Jeffrey Barrette. (Paul Peterson photo)
"The Great Western is one of the best Class D leagues in the state," DeMink said. "I believe there were four playoff teams a year ago (from the GWC) so you know there's some very good talent."
The lone holdovers from a season ago are seniors Dillon Huecksteadt and Nate Stockton and junior Corbin Crittenden. Huecksteadt will get the nod at quarterback and has some experience from a season ago.
"Dillon will be our quarterback and he's one of our captains," DeMink said. "We'll need him to give us leadership."
(0-9 overall, 0-5 GWC)
Lake Linden-Hubbell 34, Baraga 6
Hancock 49, Baraga 6
Gogebic 50, Baraga 6
Gwinn 42, Baraga 10
L'Anse 49, Baraga 0
Hurley (Wis.) 55, Baraga 6
Forest Park 43, Baraga 8
Houghton 50, Baraga 0
Ontonagon 44, Baraga 14
Aug. 29: Lake Linden-Hubbell, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: Hancock, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: at Gogebic (in Bessemer), 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: at North Central, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: at L'Anse, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: Hurley (Wis.), 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: Forest Park, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18: at Houghton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25: at Ontonagon, 7 p.m.
Crittenden, who has decent speed, and junior Eddie Ling will be the tailbacks, Ling the bigger of the two at 5-8, 175.
Junior Mike Turunen (5-9, 184) is penciled in at fullback and has shown some potential. The split ends will be sophomore Austin Smith and junior Kyle Desrochers.
The offensive line, while not as big as in past seasons, has decent size with Nate Stockton (6-2, 174) and junior Lucas Coffey (6-4, 190) at tackle.
Junior Steven Santti (6-1, 205) will be the center and freshman Casey Chagnon (5-9, 192) is set at one guard. In the mix at the other guard spot are junior Taylor Mayo (5-9, 265) and freshmen Alan Desrochers (5-11, 193) and William Reynolds (5-11, 275).
On defense, the Vikings will look to several combinations to slow down the opposition. The interior will likely be manned by Santti, Mayo, A. Desrochers and Stockton and Chagnon. The latter is described by his coach as "very solid player."
The linebacking corps figure to be led by Hueckstaedt and Turunen, while the secondary will see Kyle Desrochers, Crittenden, Smith and sophomores Nate Miron and Sean Stockton. Freshman Jeffrey Barrette is also looking for time.
Santti will handle the kicking chores.