Luke Hansel, one of the area’s best pitchers, is back after two years off from football. He scored two touchdowns and ran for 68 yards in the Grove’s 18-12 victory Thursday at Greenfield. (Submitted/SLN)


By Tim Wester

Sports Correspondent

It’s not often that a starting-caliber quarterback randomly appears at summer practice.

But that’s exactly what happened at Union Grove High this summer.

Senior Luke Hansel, who has spent the past few springs firing fastballs on the mound for the baseball team, decided to return to football after a two-year absence.

Hansel’s return comes at an ideal time with the Broncos looking for a replacement for second-team all-conference quarterback Alec Spang.

Hansel appears to be the favorite to win the starting quarterback job over sophomore Nash Wolf, who has been slowed by a wrist injury.

“Luke hasn’t played football since his freshman season, but it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat,” Union Grove football coach Craig McClelland said. “He provides that dual threat with his arm and tough running between the tackles.”

Hansel and the Broncos look to rebound from a rough 3-6 record last season.

“We just didn’t match up well with a lot of teams last year,” said McClelland, whose defense gave up 40 points in four different games last year. “We were pretty small and had many kids playing on both sides of the ball against bigger kids for four quarters, so eventually the bigger guys won.”

The Broncos figure to win a few more battles in the trenches this year with seven defensive starters returning.

This group includes defensive end Dillon Brixius, linebackers Keith Storm-Voltz, Cade Kevek, Drake LaRue and Luke Nelson, along with cornerbacks Jack Clark and Carson LaPointe and safety Owen Erickson.

Joining the veterans is junior Konnor Goetsch at free safety.

The experienced seniors on defense are part of a roster that has 17 seniors.

“It seems like every year we are getting a little thinner,” he said. “But having 17 seniors this year is also nice to have.”

Offensively, the Broncos will mix in four-wide-receiver, one-back sets with a traditional pro-style formation.

Despite losing talented receivers Jacob Ross and Jack Pettit, the Broncos figure to have enough depth at receiver to run multiple formations.

Brixius returns to man the tight end spot with his unique size and speed to split the seam against defenses.

Nelson also returns at receiver, with three-year starter LaPointe in the slot. Erickson and sophomore Ryan Davis will also play key roles at receiver.

The running game will include running backs Storm-Voltz, Kevek, and Goetsch.

Leading the way for the Bronco runners is an experienced offensive line that returns three starters. Junior Connor Esch returns at center with Tommy Turner back at left tackle and LaRue at right tackle. The Broncos will have a pair of new guards with newcomer Baron Masi on the left and Andrew Avila on the right.

With the starting spots taking shape, McClelland likes where his team stands.

“We had talent last year but didn’t have the vocal leaders that we have this year,” McClelland said. “Guys like LaRue, LaPointe, Clark, Nelson, Storm, and Kevek are staying on guys, where last year we had more guys lead by example, which is important as well, but we didn’t have the vocal guys in the huddle.”

Can a bigger and experienced Bronco team find four victories in a tough Southern Lakes Conference to become playoff-eligible?

“The Lakes is always tough to get four wins,” McClelland said. “We play to win every game and never expect to los