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Big step: Lions ready to join tough Michigan conference

Photo courtesy of Finlandia Athletics Finlandia quarterback Dellontae Johnson scrambles for a touchdown in a game last season versus Trinity Bible College. Johnson returns this season for the Lions.

HANCOCK — With the opening game of the football season coming up fast, interim Finlandia University coach Travis Wiltzius and his staff are making plans.

The Lions, who will enter the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) this fall, open drills on Aug. 10.

“We’re getting ready for that date,” Wiltzius said. “It’s a big year for the program and the school.”

Finlandia will host Concordia (Wis.) on Sept. 2 at McAfee Field before hitting the road for three games.

It’s been an offseason of turmoil for the FU grid program.

Head coach Tim Driscoll was dismissed at the end of the season, being replaced by Rob Boss.

Boss was arrested in Baraga early this year and charged with domestic assault, causing him to be dismissed by the university.

Wiltzius was hired as interim coach after the incident. He’s been on the Lions coaching staff for three years, serving as a line coach.

The Lions skipper said he currently has more than 40 players on the roster.

“We’re looking at adding some more kids as school (registration) nears,” he said. “I think we’ll be around to 50 for the season.”

A solid group of seniors will be counted on heavily.

That list includes fullback Dylan Hueckstaedt (Baraga), Adrian Saterstad (Hancock) and Tyler Kangas (Manistique).

Hueckstaedt scored seven touchdowns a year ago and is also a good receiver. 

Saterstad, a 6-3, 300-pounder, is a two-way starter in the line.

Kangas, who also handles the punting chores, is another receiver with good hands. He’s played quarterback at times as well.

Finlandia has had three starting quarterbacks in its three years and that lack of consistency has been a problem.

But sophomore Dellontae Johnson, who had his moments last season, returns for his second season.

Wiltzius, an Escanaba native, was an assistant coach at Central Michigan University before coming to FU.

He’s aware that the MIAA will be a challenge.

“The MIAA is a very good conference, we know that,” he said. “We’ll prepare as best as we can.”

The Lions will also host Kalamazoo, Trine College and Alma College.

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