Lions look to close season on a positive note

Photo provided by Finlandia Athletics Finlandia’s Dion Avery runs with the ball during a game against Trine earlier this season at McAfee Field.

HANCOCK — A long and trying season will come to an end for the Finlandia University football team on Saturday when Alma College comes to town.

On paper, the game appears to be the best chance for FU (0-9 overall and 0-7 in the MIAA) to snag a victory as Alma (1-8, 0-7) invades McAfee Field.

The Scots are a somewhat familiar face, having been the first opponent of the fledgling Finlandia program four years ago. Alma won that game, 41-0.

While struggling themselves, Alma has improved in recent weeks. They dropped a 17-10 game to Kalamazoo two weeks ago and battled second-place Olivet in a 37-34 defeat last weekend.

Junior quarterback Martin Ippel has passed for 1,097 yards and eight scores to lead the Scots this season. Tailback Josh Martin is the main threat running.

“Alma has a fine football team,” Finlandia coach Travis Wiltzius noted. “They’ve been playing good football recently.”

With inclement weather expected for Saturday (snow and wind chills in the teens, it may help out the locals, who played a strong game against league leader Trine in similar conditions last month.

“I don’t believe the weather will be a factor,” Wiltzius said. “We practice in it …. and we play in it.”

Five seniors will make their final appearance in a Lions uniform Saturday. They are Dillion Huesckstaedt, Adrian Saterstad, Tyler Kangas, Justin Woolever and Eric Kostreva.

“I want to thank them all for their hard work,” Wiltzius said. “They will be missed by our program.”

Hueckstaedt, the former Baraga High product, has had an outstanding season at linebacker. He has recorded 122 total tackles, and in two games, had more than 20 combined tackles.

He was named the MIAA Defensive Player of the Week three weeks ago for his school record 11 solo and 13 assisted tackles against Trine.

The Finlandia offense has been led by the running of Woolever in recent games. Junior quarterback De’Llontae Johnson has had his moments, passing for 699 yards and rushing for 199 more.

“It’s been a learning season for all of us,” Wiltzius said. “But I feel we’ve made some progress.”

Game time is set for 1 p.m.

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