Nowhere to go but up

After rough 2016, Marquette beefs up numbers in quest for 6th playoff spot in 7 seasons

The Marquette Senior HIgh School varsity Redmen look to rebound from a 1-8 season of a year ago with increased roster numbers. In the front row from left are Nick Plourde, Holden Shaneberger, Rick Touchinski, Justyn Huskey, Robert Bell, Keaton Jones, Ben Garrow and Dylan Goodwin. Second row from left, Drew Gale, Ethan Lang, Ethan Gigot, Axel Seitz, Ryan Houle, Bryce Brazeau, Tanner Judd, Brendan Kaski, Jake L'Huillier and David Bell. Third row from left, Justin Kasieta, Eyn Nye, Beau Zorza, Austyn Tabbert, Wyatt Filkins, Alex Canoot, Seth Coburn, Richard Weycker, Greyson Anthos, Zack Albright and Jacob Johnson. Top row from left, Josh Iwanicki, Quincy Marsh, John Wetelainen, Nick Beery, Ethan Martysz, Mason Lane, Adam Janshek, Nick Leafers and Richard Sneller Jr. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

MARQUETTE — Last year was a difficult one, to say the least, for the Marquette Senior High School Redmen.

After making the playoffs the previous five seasons, the Redmen were crippled in 2016 by both the injury bug and a brutal schedule that was stacked with playoff teams like Traverse City St. Francis and Detroit Country Day.

Even though the campaign was a rough one, head coach Dave L’Huillier thought there were some bright spots in the darkness.

“Last year was a disappointing one,” he said. “We had been on the right track making the playoffs the last five years in a row and finishing 1-8 was definitely not the direction we wanted to go.

“Things happen, though. With high school football, sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get.

“We had a few things that didn’t go our way with injuries and our schedule, and throughout the year, we ended up playing eight sophomores. The good part of that is that they and some juniors got a good chunk of playing time and some experience to take into this year.

“We have a lot coming back, so hopefully, that will pay off.”

Marquette’s player turnout last year was also a bit surprising, seeing how it is the largest school in the Upper Peninsula. The Redmen varsity roster numbered in the low 20s at one point, but L’Huillier thinks that this year might be different.

“When we had equipment checkout, things went pretty well as about 40 varsity players come by, so that was encouraging,” he said. “We’ve also had a great number of kids come to our offseason workouts all summer.

“We kind of knew last year that we might have smaller numbers with our classes being low, but we weren’t expecting it to be that low. However, the ones that did (join) got a lot of experience, so that should help us this year.”

Like some other teams in the area, Marquette doesn’t have a No. 1 player at quarterback and will go with a QB-by-committee plan until one emerges.

“We’ve got Brendan Kaski, who was all-league as a sophomore and did a great job,” L’Huillier said. “Bryce Brazeau got some reps in at quarterback also and Ethan Martysz played wide receiver with us last year and he also got some reps.

“We have three intelligent young men who can play the position and each brings a different aspect to the table. So there might be times where you might see all three throughout the season.”

The Redmen also have a wide variety of players for the backfield who can take the pressure off the signal callers. And there’s some talented receivers, too.

“We have Drew Gale coming back and he had 1,000 yards for us along with most the carries for us,” L’Huillier said. “There is also Alex McGregor, who got some carries, too, and got some good experience.

“So we’ve got some good guys there and we’ll be in good shape. Ethan played a lot for us last year at receiver and Adam Jenshak got some reps, too. Brazeau also played some wide receiver, so we got a wide variety of guys there, too.”

One of the big concerns for the Redmen is their offensive line as Zack Albright is their only returning starter. However, L’Huillier thinks there are some guys who can fill those important roles.

“Zach started all nine games and did a great job for us,” he said. “Alex Cannoot did a great job coming up from JV and Jacob Iwanicki also came up and played guard for us. So we’ve got some guys coming back with experience there.”

The Redmen will need that experience as the Great Northern Conference should be strong again despite losing Gladstone to the Mid-Peninsula Conference. That the core of a schedule the promises to be brutal once again.

“The GNC has always been a difficult conference,” L’Huillier said. “Menominee made it to the state finals last year and Kingsford will also be good again. Escanaba did a great job last year and they have a ton of guys coming back, so they’ll be right there like they have been in the past. It’s going to be a tough one again.”

On paper, 2017 could be another difficult year for the Redmen, but L’Huillier continues to think positively.

“Last year we had some low numbers, but this year, we’ve got good kids and they’ve been working hard,” he said. “They’ve been doing a good job of staying motivated this year.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.