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College football: Michigan Tech opens season at Hillsdale

Michigan Tech’s Jared Smith, right, runs against Wayne State during a 2018 game in Houghton. (David Archambeau/The Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — It’s game on for the Michigan Tech Huskies as they open up their 2019 football campaign Saturday on the road in Hillsdale, Michigan against a familiar foe — the Hillsdale College Chargers.

According to MTU head coach Steve Olson, the Huskies are ready to go.

“Our fall camp went very well,” he said. “The players have been working hard on building team unity and bonding as well as developing the football skills that they are going to need throughout the season. Now, we are in an actual game week and it’s exciting to be prepping for an opponent rather than just going up against ourselves. It’s nice to switch gears.”

Saturday’s non-conference game will mark the 29th meeting between the Huskies and the Chargers,

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Frank Waters Stadium.

Olson said it’s always a good game.

“For the most part, we are two evenly matched teams,” he said. “When we’ve played them in the past it is usually ends up being a close, tough hard-fought game. They are a well coached team. They’re not flashy, but rather what they do, they do well on both offense and defense.”

The Huskies are coming off a 4-6 season while the Chargers posted a 10-3 overall record in 2018.

A year ago, the Huskies defeated the Chargers in Week 2 with a 31-30 overtime win at Sherman Field. Michigan Tech has won three of their last five meetings with Hillsdale. The Chargers went on to win the Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship last year and made it all the way to the Division II playoff regional semifinals.

They will be under the leadership of a new freshman quarterback, Luke Keller, as senior quarterback Chance Stewart graduated in May. They have a strong running back in senior David Graham who carried the ball for 939 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2018.

“With a new quarterback, I suspect they will run the ball a little more than they have in the past as not put a lot of pressure on him right away,” said Olson now in his third year as head coach of the Huskies. “Like us they lost a couple of guys but have a good number of returners.”

The Huskies offense will look much the same as it did a year ago. It will be lead by junior quarterback Will Ark. In the 2018 campaign, Ark threw 132 passes for 1,654 yards and 10 touchdowns. As well he had four touchdowns of his own.

In the air, he will be looking to connect with senior wide receivers Ben Hartley and Jacob Wenzlick. Wenzlick led the Huskies with 872 receiving yards. Hartley was second on the team in total receptions with 44 and reception yards with 597.

As for the running game, Ark will turn to sophomore running back Jared Smith to carry the ball.

Smith led the 2018 team in rushing with 577 yards on 104 carries. He averaged 57.7 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. He had three touchdowns as well.

“It will be a challenge to go to their place and battle them but it’s one we have been getting ready for, and we are excited to go do it,” Olson said.

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