HOUGHTON - The first gameday of the 2012 high school football season is upon us. At the top of the billing is what is expected to be one of the most talked-about teams in the area, against one of the most talked-about players in Wisconsin.
The Calumet Copper Kings kick off tonight at Agassiz Field against Eagle River (Wis.) Northland Pines, led by blue-chip back/linebacker Austin Ramesh.
Ramesh, listed at 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, has indicated a verbal commitment to attend the University of Wisconsin as a linebacker or fullback after receiving offers from the likes of Central Michigan, Iowa, Iowa State and Michigan State, according to Scout.com.
"Northland Pines certainly has one heck of a challenge for us, with Austin Ramesh and a bunch of other seniors back for their third year, so it's a big challenge for us and we're really looking forward to playing someone else on Friday night," Calumet coach John Croze said.
Ramesh racked up more than 2,500 yards of total offense and 22 touchdowns in his junior season.
However, neither Ramesh nor the Eagles have had much success against the Copper Kings. Since NP joined the WestPAC in 2010, the Copper Kings have beaten them 47-16 and 50-12.
Ramesh had 12 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore and nine carries for 65 yards, including a 61-yard TD run, and three catches for 108 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown.
Also tonight, a pair of coaches make their debuts.
Hancock's Ryan Walter leads the Bulldogs into a home opener against the newly-renamed Gogebic Miners (previously Bessemer-Wakefield-Marinesco).
The Miners, now wearing a neutral green-and-white scheme, were just one point better than Hancock last year. The Bulldogs scored with less than a minute to go, but the extra point kick was blocked, preserving the victory.
Houghton visits L'Anse under new coach Karl Borree. Jimmy Veker, a junior facing the Gremlins for the third time tonight, has had success against them. Last year, he had 175 yards and three scores on 36 carries and recovered a fumble defensively in the end zone. As a freshman, he ran for 100 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Ontonagon hosts North Central in non-conference play tonight, while Great Western Conference play begins for Lake Linden-Hubbell at Baraga when the two meet Saturday at Warner Athletic Field.