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Local is focus for FU football/Paul Peterson

There’s an old saying that the family that sticks together stays together.

That particular philosophy has been adopted full-bore by the Finlandia University and Hancock High football teams.

The Lions are hoping to gain the support of Hancock sports fans — and those in the Copper Country — with a six-game home schedule this fall.

“We consider the entire four-county area as our main area for recruiting,” Lions coach Travis Wiltzius said earlier this year. “We hope that playing six games at home in 2019 will help in that respect.”

Wiltzius, who went winless in his first season, has an entirely new staff of assistants.

Typical of that staff are Dillion Hueckstaedt of Baraga and Adrian Saterstad of Hancock.

Both Hueckstaedt and Saterstad played at FU in their careers, the former ranking among national Division III leaders in tackles last season.

The latter was one of the very first recruits at the university four years ago and battled injuries playing in the line.

“Those two guys represent what we’ve building toward,” Wiltzius said. “They’re both local kids who stayed at home, did a good job for us, and who now are teaching other kids here.”

Finlandia has a number of local players and several from around the Upper Peninsula this season.

At Hancock, new coach Ramon Sague has installed a “dream team” of assistants that includes former Michigan Tech head coach Tom Kearly, ex-Bulldog coach Rich Salani and his son, Chris.

Both Rich and Chris Salani played football at Michigan State, where they handled punting duties for the Spartans.

Toss in the brother duo or senior quarterback Colton Salani and junior back Austin Salani, and you can quickly see the blood connection.

“It’s a real privilege to have assistants of this caliber,” Hancock native Sague said. “It’s something not very many U.P. football teams have ever had.”

Both the Lions and Bulldogs face tough competition this autumn.

Finlandia plays in the tough MIAA (its first season was one year ago) and needs to have a solid corps of lettermen step up to win some games.

Hancock plays in the West PAC Silver Division and must wade through powerhouse teams like Iron Mountain, Westwood and Negaunee to gain a playoff spot.

It figures to be an interesting season on this side of Portage Lake.