“Transition” the word for local football

Maybe more than in any local football season I can recall, the operative word will be transition in 2017.

There was an unusual number of high-quality athletes who graduated a year ago, for one thing.

Calumet and Lake Linden-Hubbell, the two most successful area squads in recent times, were hit hard.

The Copper Kings were left to fill some 20 of 22 starting spots from a year ago, including All-U.P. performers Russ Bjorn and Rory Anderson.

The Lakes lost most of their sturdy line from last fall. That included Lincoln Klein, the last of the family who have helped the Lakes to much success over the years. They will also be without tailback Brendan Middleton, who was arguably the most dynamic small school player in the U.P.

The Copper Kings have become noted for their depth in the program since John Croze took over the reins. Don’t expect CHS to miss more than a step or two with big tight end Cooper Twardzik showing the way.

The Lakes are in a different situation, having limited numbers as usual to face a rugged schedule. But coach Andy Crouch usually finds a way to win enough games to make the playoffs and returns a potentially solid quarterback in sophomore Carter Crouch.

Around the rest of the area, look for Hancock to continue its resurgence of a year ago. Coach Ted Holmstrom has some talented young players, especially at QB where sophomore Colton Salani returns.

Houghton has a new coach in Frank Bonacorsi, who has just 17 players on the roster. The Gremlins, who face a tough schedule, may be a year or two away.

L’Anse, which combined forces with old rival Baraga this season, could be a darkhorse. The Hornets are deep at the skilled positions and have a big threat in junior flanker Logan Fish.

Ontonagon and Ewen-Trout Creek also joined forces and could be a threat in eight-person football in the Upper Peninsula. It will be worth the price of admission just to watch all-state 6-foot-7 end Jake Witt catch touchdown passes. He snared 25 TDs in 2016.

Our two universities, Michigan Tech and Finlandia, also face transition seasons.

The Huskies have a new head coach in Steve Olson and a lot of places to fill. Tech usually reloads and a fairly experienced defense will probably produce a .500 or better season. Defensive end Cody Goldsworthy (L’Anse) is a player to watch.

The Lions are playing an abbreviated schedule because of a lack of numbers. FU enters the MIAA next season and will play teams this season they are capable of defeating. A few wins would help that process for coach Tim Driscoll’s team.