MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) – 82 of this year’s seniors and 14 coaches from across the Upper Peninsula converged at the Superior Dome today for the start of a full week of All-Star football and activities, and it all began with a food drive for the St. Vincent de Paul pantry. All players and coaches collected food and brought it to check-in, which was then taken to St. Vincent de Paul. The massive amount of food collected is a testament to how well supported these players are in their communities. The employees of the food chamber were enthusiastic and accepted the donation with great gratitude.
Organized locally, members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul the love of God by accepting all works of charity and justice. The Society works with other people of goodwill to alleviate and address the causes of need, and makes no difference to those who are helped. Friends in need can receive support in the form of food, shelter, utilities, rent, supplies, recipes, transportation, and other forms of charity. The businesses thrive because of the generosity of the community members who donate. The UP Football All-Star Game is very excited to be part of the community and to help others in need.
After the players checked in, each team completed two practice sessions. Both teams were allowed to practice once in the Dome and for many it was their first time in the Dome and playing on the grass. The coaches spoke early and often about making the most of what they could and using the time here to make new friends and enjoy the experience.
Team Black’s head coach, Ishpeming’s George Niemi, brought in Gavin Sundberg (Ishpeming’s head coach) and Jeff Olson (longtime Ishpeming’s head coach) to assist. The black team’s other coaches include West Iron County’s Mike Berutti, Tyler Thomas (head coach). at Ontonagon), Scott Syrjala, Brad Wiljanen and Eli Wolf of Westwood. The Black Team coaches have all worked together for many years, so they are already a very cohesive group. They also have a lot of All-Star Game appearances, so they’re familiar with the week and what it takes to be successful. Both Gavin Sundberg (’19) and Tyler Thomas (’14) played in this game when they were seniors. It’s great to see former players coming into coaching and continuing the UP football tradition, it sure keeps an event going.
Team Red’s head coach, Menominee’s Joe Noha, brought all of his assistants from Menominee with him. These include Chad Brandt, Lucas Chouinard, Dave Clarke, Mason Kewley and Dave Mathieu. Coach Noha will be stepping down as head coach at Menominee next fall and Coach Brandt will take over leadership of the Maroon program, so this year’s All-Star Game will serve as Menominee’s changing of the guard and a chance for all the coaches ahead of next fall’s coaching change-in to work together for the last time.
The first training session is always about putting the players in the positions where they can best benefit the team. The All-Star game offers players many opportunities to gain experience in different positions that they have not tried before. Due to the small size of most UP high school rosters, the best players often play positions where they are most needed and don’t get a chance to experience other positions they may be better suited for. With so many great players here on the same team, the coaches can move players around to emphasize their strengths, making it fun to watch players thrive in multiple positions.
Both teams spent time evaluating each player’s talents while working through drills and formations. Players immediately began to develop chemistry with every rep and game. It was easy to see why these players were voted the UP’s best, as it didn’t take them long to settle into a training routine and start looking like a football team. Both teams spent time in their individual positional groups and played offense versus defense as a whole unit. The spirits definitely lifted as the groups got together and the boys got a chance to finally hit it off after so many months without bandages.
It’s hard to say at this point which team has an advantage. Both teams are working hard to figure out their line-ups and where each player can best help the team. We’ll have to see how the week goes, but both teams seem very focused on their own game plans. Each team has players with unique strengths, and coaches devise ways to bring out the best in each player and create the most beneficial encounters.
The biggest impact on the design, game plan, and overall atmosphere of the game is definitely the addition of “movement” to offense. Getting an offensive player going opens up the game and makes it much more difficult for the defense. We should see some creative play calls and goals in this year’s game on Saturday.
On Day 2 (Tuesday) everyone settles into a regular two-exercise routine, along with media day in the evening. Team and individual photos will be taken and the players will be available for interviews with all attending media. Players and coaches will be available for interviews at 6:45 p.m. in the Dome.
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