It’s a bay combo: Baraga football co-operative with L’Anse beefs up Purple Hornets’ numbers
(* West PAC game)
Friday, Aug. 25 — * at Houghton, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 31 — LAKE LINDEN-HUBBELL, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 8 — at Westwood, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 15 — * HANCOCK, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 22 — * at Hurley, Wis., 7 p.m. EDT
Friday, Sept. 29 — * GOGEBIC (Ironwood-Bessemer-Wakefield-Marenisco)
Friday, Oct. 6 — * CALUMET, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 13 — * at Eagle River, Wis., Northland Pines, 7 p.m. EDT
Friday, Oct. 20 — * at West Iron County, 7 p.m. EDT
L’ANSE — You could call the combination of L’Anse-Baraga athletes in one football program this year a sign of the times.
With shrinking numbers all over the state, many schools have joined in co-operatives with others. Such is the case in Baraga County.
“So far, it’s been a good mix,” Purple Hornets coach Mark Leaf said. “We have 10 kids from Baraga and everyone has fit in very well. The attitude and work ethic is good. We’re pleased.”
Of those 10 Vikings, five are playing on the varsity.
L’Anse, 2-7 a year ago, has been hurt by injuries in recent seasons. Leaf believes the increased numbers will help in that department.
“Last season, we lost both our quarterbacks in the first two games,” he said. “I think we’ll have a little more depth this season — and these new kids can play.”
Senior quarterback Kooper Jahfetson took most of the snaps last season and showed a deft passing touch.
“Kooper had a very strong second half,” Leaf said. “He’s a little bigger (6-foot, 195 pounds) and stronger. We looking for some good things from him.”
There’s good depth in the backfield, with speedy senior Foster Miller at tailback and junior Devan Funke playing a lot at Baraga last year.
Joey Magaraggia (6-1, 205) and Jonny Cote (5-7, 180) are seniors who bring good size in at fullback.
Jahfetson will have all of his main receiving weapons back. Senior flanker Chase Parker was a first-team All-West-PAC choice last year and has good speed. Junior Logan Fish caught a handful of touchdowns last year and will be counted on along with Reese Waara.
Tight end is contested between senior Devin Niemi and junior Cooper LaPlante.
“We feel real good about our passing game,” Leaf said.
Junior tackle Max Ostermeyer (6-2, 270) and senior tackle Justin Cicosz (6-1, 280) are returnees on the offensive line. Seniors Ainikin Anderson (6-2, 180) and Joey Francois (5-10, 225) are also good bets to start.
Big senior center Tyler Yowell (6-2, 395) is back from an injury last fall and will provide more blocking.
Other candidates for time on the line are seniors Daniel Curtis, Dominic Ripley and Brandon Funke and junior Jaice Haanpa.
Special teams could be a strong point for the Purple Hornets.
Miller is an excellent return man and Fish will handle the punting chores. Waara is a strong placekicker.
On defense, the line should be a solid area. Ostermeyer, Cichosz and Yowell will be in the interior with Brandan Funke and Francois also in the mix.
The ends figure to be Magaraggia and Niemi. Senior Brent Waranka, also the backup QB, is a possibility.
The linebacking should be solid with Miller, Cote and possibly Devan Funke and Alec Sanregret.
The secondary has incumbents in Parker, Jahfetson and Fish. Senior Bryce Crawford and juniors Alex Rajala, Dominic Thompson and Steven Taylor could also figure in.
“We have to get better on defense,” Leaf said. “We gave up too many points last season.”
Leaf sees defending champ Calumet as the favorite in the West PAC.
“(Calumet) lost a ton of starters, but they just always seem to reload. West Iron (County) could be very good and Hurley, Wisconsin, is always tough. Gogebic, Hancock and (Eagle River, Wisconsin) Northland Pines will also figure in.”
The Hornets will host the Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes and Westwood Patriots in their nonleague games.