L'ANSE - If L'Anse High School football coach Mark Leaf sounds optimistic about the upcoming season, you can't blame him.
The Purple Hornets are coming off a season in which they won eight games and upset Forest Park in the playoffs. And the Purple Gang has 17 lettermen coming back.
"We have a good nucleus of players back and a good senior group," Leaf said. "A lot of these kids have played two or three years."
2013 L’Anse Purple Hornets: Back row, from left, Ryan Beauprey, Drake Sullivan, Austin Ayres, Chris Johnson, Levi Hoskins, Brandon Scroggs, Jimmy Veker, Keith Denomie, Jadon Delene, Jacob Ostermayer, Alex Karcher, Jonny Magaraggia and Coach Mark Leaf; front row, from left, Raymond Miron, Tristan Leaf, Hunter Kinnunen, Brandon Kemppainen, Brett Martinez, Joey Beauprey, Casey Carter, Dustin Syrjala, and Zach Hulkonen. Missing from photo was Dan Whisler. (Paul Peterson photo)
The L'Anse program also received an unexpected bonus when senior Ryan LaBerge transferred in from Houghton High.
"He (LaBerge) certainly won't hurt us," Leaf said. "He played quarterback at Houghton and is an excellent punter and placekicker."
LaBerge will join a LHS backfield that includes holdovers at quarterback in Jacob Ostermeyer and tailback/flanker Jimmy Veker. Both are seniors with a ton of experience.
(7-2 regular season, 8-3 overall, 4-2 West PAC)
L'Anse 34, Houghton 0
L'Anse 40, West Iron County 20
L'Anse 45, Ontonagon 6
L'Anse 36, Hancock 26
L'Anse 49, Baraga 0
L'Anse 36, Ironwood 28 (OT)
Calumet 26, L'Anse 6
Northland Pines (Wis.) 68, L'Anse 24
L'Anse 47, Munising 6
Div. 8 playoffs
L'Anse 34, Forest Park 28
North Dickinson 61, L'Anse 30
Aug. 29: at Houghton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: at West Iron County, 7:30 p.m. EST
Sept. 13: Ontonagon, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Hancock, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: Baraga, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: Ironwood, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: Calumet, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18: at Eagle River Northland Pines, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25: at Munising, 7 p.m.
Ostermeyer clicked on 50 percent of his passes for 600 yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago. Veker, a four-year starter and All-U.P. pick, rushed for 710 yards and caught 25 passes for another 605 yards and 12 scores.
There are more weapons in the LHS arsenal. Junior tailback Brandon Kemppainen showed flashes a year ago and will be a starter. Sophomore Ryan Beauprey is the starter at fullback and has impressed so far.
One of the big losses from last year was Cody Goldsworthy, who rushed for 1,400 yards and was an All-U.P. choice at linebacker. Goldsworthy is currently on the Michigan Tech squad. The tight end spot will be manned by senior Jonny Magaraggia, who caught the last-second pass to beat Forest Park. At the wideout will be junior Raymond Miron and seniors Drake Sullivan and Jadon Delene. The versatile LaBerge will be used in a number of spots, including the slot.
There's plenty of size and experience in an offensive line led by seniors Alex Karcher (5-11, 330), Keith Denomie (6-2, 260) and Brandon Scroggs (6-3, 265). All are three-year veterans.
Senior Casey Carter (5-9, 240) is an incumbent at center. Junior Chris Johnson (6-1, 185) will be at left guard and senior Tristan Leaf is battling for time with newcomer Levi Hoskins (6-3, 265) and junior Austin Ayres (6-0, 300).
On defense, the interior will be anchored by Karcher, Carter, Scroggs and Hoskins. Junior Casey Hulkonen is another possibility.
Denomie will be at one end and there's competition on the other side with Casey Kinnunen in the mix.
The linebacking spots will see Beauprey, Kemppainen and Magaraggia getting a lot of time. Junior Dustin Syrjala is also vying for time