Purple Hornets looking for a strong finish

This is the 2018 edition of the L'Anse Purple Hornets varsity football team, which co-ops with Baraga High School. In the front row from left are Adrian Connor, Johnny Messer, Dominic Thompson, Jaden DeMink, Carter Tollefson, Reese Waara, Terry Reed, Alec Sanregret and Alex Rajala. Top row from left, assistant coaches Mike Griffin and Dan Perrault, Paul Jacobson, Tanner Lane, Abi Chintapalli, Max Ostermeyer, Darien Francois, Tristan Stockton, William Jondreau, Anthony Kinnunen, Jonah Dowd, Cooper LaPlante, assistant coach Dave Tembruell and head coach Mark Leaf. (Paul Peterson photo)

At midseason a year ago, the L’Anse High School varsity football team stood at 4-0 and seemed almost assured of a playoff spot.

But the roof caved in for coach Mark Leaf after the Purple Hornets were dealt five straight defeats to end the season.

“Not to make excuses, but we had some key injuries at midseason and just didn’t play well down the stretch,” Leaf said. “We’re hoping to turn that around this season.”

If the Hornets are to accomplish that, they’ll have replace leading rusher and All-Upper Peninsula selection Foster Miller and quarterback Cooper Jahfetson.

An unexpected loss was that of receiver Logan Fish, who transferred to Negaunee.

“He (Fish) is a good athlete, but he missed all of last season with an ACL injury,” Leaf said. “He would have helped us, no question.”

The cupboard is far from bare, however.

“We’ve got some good kids coming back and our JV team was 7-2 last season,” Leaf said. “We’ll be looking to be very competitive.”

Senior Reese Waara was backup quarterback last fall and also saw time at wideout. He will get the nod at QB.

“Reese Waara is a good athlete,” Leaf said. “He can do things with his arm and his legs. We’ll be looking for good things from him.”

The tailback spots will see either senior Alex Sanregret and junior Jonah Dowd.

Devan Funke, one of six Baraga players on the roster, will also get time.

“All of them have decent speed and should help us,” Leaf said.

Senior Alec Rajala should be at fullback, with senior Carter Tollefson another possibility.

The receiving corps includes juniors Tanner Lane and Johnny Messer, the former singled out by his coach. Senior Cooper LaPlante is another name mentioned.

“He (Lane) could be a real help in the passing game,” Leaf said. “He has good hands and is a tough blocker.”

The offensive line returns veterans in senior Max Ostermeyer (6-foot-2, 250 pounds), who has started for three seasons.

“He (Ostermeyer) will have to anchor our line…. He has the most experience,” Leaf noted. “He can be a leader for us.”

Junior Tristan Stockton (6-2, 210) saw time a year ago and will be looked to. Senior Jake Haanpaa started a year ago at guard.

Junior Bobby Genschow (5-9, 215), senior William Jondreau (6-0, 205) and juniors Jaden DeMink and Abi Chintapalli (6-0, 215) are looking to crack the lineup.

“We’re not as big on the line as we’ve been in the past,” Leaf said. “But we’re deeper and quicker overall.”

The kicking game looks to be secure with Waara back. He was All-West PAC as a punter and also does a good job in place-kicking.

The defense will feature many of the same players. Linebacking could be a strong point with Lane, Sanregret and Dowd the leaders.

“We would like to attack more on defense, and those guys have the speed to give us that,” Leaf said.

The interior line will feature Ostermeyer and Stockton, with several players, including Billy Genchow, DeMink and Chintapalli, vying for time.

The secondary has veterans in Waara, Funke and Thompson. Juniors Paul Jacobson and Terry Reed are also in the mix.

The re-formed West PAC with the majority of the Mid-Peninsula Conference joining features a number of quality teams, according to Leaf. By virtue of the co-op with Baraga, L’Anse has one of the bigger enrollments and will play in the “A” Division.

“It’s a brutal schedule. Westwood is going to be very good,” the Hornets’ skipper said about one “A” opponent. “Calumet is loaded and you know Negaunee and Iron Mountain are going to bounce back. And Hancock is a very good team with that hurry-up offense.”

The crossover games in the “B” Division will be against tough Munising and Lake Linden-Hubbell.

“We just have to take them one at a time,” Leaf said.