Finlandia primed for football opener

HANCOCK — A familiar opponent will offer the first test for the Finlandia University football team Saturday.

Concordia (Wis.) College hosts the Lions — the third year in a row coach the Travis Wiltzius-coached Lions will see the Falcons.

“Concordia has a very solid program,” Wiltzius said. “They were second in their conference (Northern Athletic Collegiate Conference) last season and were 7-3 overall. It will be a good test for us.”

The 2 p.m. EDT game at Tomasini Field in Mequon, Wisconsin, offers FU a chance to avenge a 31-3 loss to Concordia last season.

Finlandia returns 23 lettermen and Wiltzius hopes that experience will help.

“For the first time, since we began the program, we have some depth at key positions,” he said. “Sure, we’ll have some kids playing their first college game. But we’re not as green as we’ve been.”

Finlandia starts a freshman quarterback in Darin Johnson (Gladstone), who had a strong summer camp, Wiltzius said.

“Darin Johnson has a good mobility running and he throws the football real well,” Wiltzius said. “I believe we’re going to be more balanced on offense.”

A veteran offensive line returns four starters, including junior tackle Wilson Spreier, who gained mention in the MIAA a year ago.

There’s also a talented tight end in Bryce Beauchaine. Sophomore flanker Ken Kujawa caught 24 passes last season and brings speed.

The FU defense has experience, with linebacker Taylor Bonetti. Bonetti accounted for 53 combined tackles in 2018 and according to his coach “is our unquestoned leader on defense.”

The Falcons are doing some rebuilding, having lost their starting quarterback and a couple of running backs. Three freshmen are vying for the QB spot.

Isiaiah Tennette, a speedy flanker, returns and is a deep threat. He caught 42 passes and also returns kicks. He had a 99-yard kickoff return versus the Lions.

Jake Ripotella is another receiving threat after snagging 24 passes and six touchdowns.

Concordia, with more than 7,700 students, was picked to finish fourth in its league.

Finlandia’s first home game is Sept. 14 against Ripon College, the first of six Lions’ home games at McAfee Field this fall.