L'ANSE - It's round two in round two of the Division 8 district football finals tonight, as L'Anse heads to Mettlach Field in Crystal Falls for a postseason rematch with the Forest Park Trojans.
The match is a reprise of a pre-district thriller from last season in which a last-minute touchdown pass from Jacob Ostermeyer to Jonny Magaraggia was the difference as the Purple Hornets defeated the Trojans 34-28.
That game, which marked the first time in 10 years the Trojans had gone one-and-done in the playoffs, did not sit well in Crystal Falls.
"It was a big disappointment all the way around," FP coach Bill Santilli said to the Daily News of Iron Mountain. "I don't think any of them liked losing in round one last year.
"I would hope the rematch to the kids that are back mean something in the sense to play harder. It was a very good game last year."
This Forest Park team is significantly different from last year's, starting with All-U.P. Dream Team tailback Lee Graff. Graff, a junior, sat out last year's L'Anse game and the entire 2012 season with a knee injury.
Since then, he's more than made up for lost time, running for 1,178 yards on 129 carries in the regular season for 22 touchdowns and a 9.1 yards-per-carry average, then tacked on 198 yards on 28 carries with two scores in last week's tougher-than-expected 30-16 pre-district win over the Gogebic Miners.
At 40.2 points per game, this offense has thus far proven more prolific than five of the six consecutive state finalist teams the Trojans produced from 2004-09.
L'Anse has been doing some scoring of its own, averaging 35.6 points per game this year and scoring 52 against Lake Linden-Hubbell in a pre-district win at Meadowbrook Field last week.
All-U.P. Small-School First Team tailback Jimmy Veker led the charge, with 174 rush yards and three scores vs. LL-H to go with his 715 yards and 14 TDs in the regular season.
"Veker is an excellent player offensively and defensively," said Santilli, who anticipates the Hornets attempting to overpower the Trojans. "They have very big size (average more than 200 pounds) across the front. If I evaluate our team, size has been a problem for us. We have a difficult time stopping teams that come right at us."
Whoever the district champion is, it will have homefield advantage in the next round of the playoffs, the regional finals, against either North Central or North Dickinson.