HOUGHTON, Mich. – After a 647-day hiatus, Michigan Tech football returns Saturday, September 4, when they host Hillsdale College, the first of four consecutive home games at newly renovated Sherman Field at Kearly Stadium in Houghton.
The Huskies graduated 18 seniors from their 2019 squad, which finished 5-5 overall. Another 16 student-athletes received their degrees in 2020, but several key starters remain. All-American nose tackle Nate Lajoie (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) led the GLIAC in total sacks with 8.5 and tied for second in the conference in tackles for loss. A first-team All-GLIAC honoree and D2CCA All-Super Region 3 First Team pick, Lajoie will be a senior with 21 games of varsity experience to draw upon.
BUILDING THE ARK: Three Tech quarterbacks are GLIAC tested. Junior Will Ark (Green Bay, Wisconsin) completed 128 passes for 10 touchdowns in eight 2019 appearances and earned All-GLIAC second team. He finished second in the conference with 203.9 passing yards per game. Ark was also a key to special teams and set a school record for yards per punt.
Sophomore and perhaps the GLIAC’s most aptly named football student-athlete Steele Fortress (Spring Arbor, Michigan) fortified Ark under center. He completed 45 passes for 504 yards as a redshirt freshman and appeared in all 10 games with a rushing touchdown at Ashland. Junior Kyle Wood (Rochester Hills, Michigan) is also slated to see the field with six games of varsity experience.
OFFENSIVE LINE: In front of them, Junior Louis Thom (Leonard, Michigan) is back at left tackle, along with sophomore right tackle John Hardy (Bay City, Michigan), and Hayden Huhtala (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) under center. Senior Dalton Norris (Saginaw, Michigan) leads a young group of guards and the Huskies have up to six potential freshmen options at tight end/H-Back to replace Benjamin Marion and Ozzy Corp.
PASSING THREATS: At wide receiver, the Huskies bring junior Jordan Janssen (Kimberly, Wisconsin), who caught 33 passes with one touchdown in 2019. Junior Ashland transfer Justin Davis (Rochester, New York) and local Senior Hunter Richards (Houghton, Michigan) also could be viable at receiver and special teams. Graduated seniors Jacob Wenzlick and Ben Hartley will be difficult to replace as the team’s perennial top wideouts since 2017.
Two seniors are likely to start at tailback and fullback, with All-GLIAC second team Jared Smith (Westphalia, Michigan) and Corey Cotey (Munising, Michigan).
HOLD THE LINE: On defense, junior defensive back Braxton Blackwell (South Lyon, Michigan) finished second on the team in total tackles (61.0) and was an All-GLIAC honorable mention. Senior Linebacker John Paramski (Newberry, Michigan) offers experience and endurance.
Marvin Wright may be the Huskies’ secret weapon at linebacker. Wright returns for his senior campaign after taking a medical redshirt in 2019.
Wright registered over 95 tackles for the third consecutive season in 2018. His 9.8 tackles per game ranked 34th best in NCAA Division II, leading to an All-GLIAC second-team recognition. He also posted 102 tackles in 2017 and 96 tackles in 2016.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Freshmen Drew Wyble and Brendan LeClaire will be tasked with kicking duties. Chandler Ward and Owen Watson will snap.
COACH OLSON: Steve Olson was named the Head Football Coach at Michigan Tech on November 15th, 2016. Olson is the 16th head coach in program history, which began in 1920. This will be coach Olson’s fifth year as head coach and 11th overall with the Huskies after serving as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
Olson (Ada, Minnesota) served as defensive coordinator for the three seasons and linebackers coach when he first arrived in Houghton. Olson’s defenses have consistently been some of the best in the GLIAC every year in multiple statistical categories.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: The Huskies have two GLIAC Championships (2004, 2012) and two NCAA Tournament appearances (2004, 2014) in their 98-year history. Michigan Tech has also won the Miner’s Cup 10 seasons in a row, awarded in the Michigan Tech/Northern Michigan rivalry. The Wildcats came tantalizingly close to getting their moment in the sun at Kearly Stadium in 2019, but the Huskies snatched the 24-20 win.
ON THE RADIO
– Mix 93.5 FM WKMJ will broadcast all 10 football games again this season. Josh Ylitalo will call all the action from the Kearly Stadium press box and travel with the squad.
WATCH THE GAMES
– Visit MichiganTechHuskies.com to watch the 2021 home matches live and on-demand via Stretch Internet Portal.
-Fan can watch the 2021 fall home football season for $75.
PRESEASON GLIAC POLL
-Michigan Tech is picked to finish 5th (24 points) in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, announced by the conference office.
Ferris State and Grand Valley State are at the top of the rankings at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively. The Bulldogs edged the Lakers for the top spot by six points with 49. Ferris State also gathered seven first place votes while Grand Valley State had one. Wayne State checked in at No. 3 with 36 points with Saginaw Valley State at No. 4 with 25 points.
SCOUTING THE CHARGERS
Hillsdale College was selected to finish fifth in the G-MAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll (out of eight teams). The team returns 18 starters from a squad whose most recent game in the spring of 2021 was a 35-28 road win over an Ohio Dominican squad picked to finish third in the preseason poll with 37 votes.
The Chargers remain a young team overall, with more than half of their roster in either their first or second seasons in college. But that youth on paper potentially underestimates a group that includes several players who cut their teeth in significant action in the four-game spring 2021 season and got better as the campaign wore on.
Many of those players are slated for even bigger roles in 2021, and that experience should serve them well in their second seasons for the Chargers.
Hillsdale went 2-2 in the spring season but closed out the campaign with two wins on the road where the Chargers not only earned victories but established an offensive identity that should carry over into the fall 2021 season with so many of the players involved returning.
The Chargers lead the all-time series with the Huskies 19-10. Michigan Tech grabbed victory in their last meeting with a 29-14 bout on the road. In their previous 10 matchups, Michigan Tech is an even 5-5 with a two-game streak intact.
HEALTH & SAFETY LEVEL II
Face coverings are highly encouraged upon entry to Kearly Stadium and required inside restroom facility and the press box. Please reference and adhere to all posted signage. We encourage all fans to please continue frequent handwashing (especially before and after meals), hand sanitization and to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Huskies host St. Thomas (Minnesota) on Saturday, September 11 at 1:10 p.m. Tech will have a special recognition prior to kickoff for the 2020 graduated football seniors. The Tommies made the move directly from NCAA Division III to Division I in 2021 and will compete in the Pioneer Football League.
Michigan Tech currently has two games against ranked opponents on the calendar. They include No. 16 Grand Valley State (September 25 and October 30) and No. 3 Ferris State (October 23).
Tech will defend the Miner’s Cup on October 16 at the Superior Dome in Marquette. The game will be televised on TV6 and will kick off at 2 p.m. EST.