• College Volleyball 9/19: Davenport 3, Northern Michigan 1
  • Women's College Soccer 9/19: Northwood 3. Northern Michigan 0
  • College Volleyball 9/19: Michigan Tech 3, Ferris State 0
  • Men's College Soccer 9/19: Northern Michigan 1, Northwood 1 (2 OT)
  • HS Soccer 9/18: Marquette 4, Kingsford 0
  • College Volleyball 9/18: Grand Valley State 3, Northern Michigan 0
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Tuesday September 21, 2021
High School Footall All-Star Week Gets Under Way

MARQUETTE---After a very difficult year for everyone, which included cancelling last year’s U.P. Football All-Star Game, as well as many of the athletic seasons being abbreviated or stopped altogether due to the pandemic, there was much excitement in the air when the best players from all over the Upper Peninsula converged on the Superior Dome today.  


Eighty of this year’s seniors and fourteen coaches all checked in for a full week of All-Star Football and activities, and it all kicked off with a food drive for the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.  All of the players and coaches collected food and brought it with them to check-in, which was then taken to St. Vincent de Paul.  The huge quantity of food collected is a testament to how well these players are supported in their communities.  Staff at the food pantry were elated and welcomed the donation with open arms.  


Organized locally, members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, witness God’s love by embracing all works of charity and justice.  The Society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addressing its causes, making no distinction in those served.  Friends in need may receive assistance with food, shelter, utilities, rent, material needs, prescriptions, transportation and other forms of charity.  The stores are successful due to the generosity of community members who donate.  The U.P. Football All-Star Game is very pleased to be a part of the community helping others in need.  


After the players checked in, each team completed two practices. Both teams got to practice once in the Dome, and for many, it was the first time being in the Dome and playing on the turf. The coaches talked early and often about making the most of their opportunities and taking advantage of the time here to make new friends and enjoy the experience.  


Team Black head coach Chris Thomson of West Iron County, brought Mike Berutti, Kevin Grundy and Jim Kralovec from his staff to assist.  Thomson’s son, Nathan, is playing for the Black Team, which makes the week even more special.  The other Black Team coaches include George Niemi and Jeff Olson (Ishpeming) and Fritz Rauch of Arrowhead (WI).  The Black Team coaches all have many years of history working together, so they are a very cohesive group already.  They also have many All-Star Game appearances, so they are familiar with the week and what it takes to be successful.  


Team Red head coach Al Stenberg of Bark River-Harris brought Kevin Mileski with him on his staff.  Stenberg is a veteran of the All-Star Game, having coached numerous times previously.  Stenberg’s son, Riggens, is also playing in the game.  Mike Christian, North Dickinson, has coached in the All-Star Game many times previously, so he has much valuable experience to offer.  Tom McKee of Brimley is making his first All-Star Game appearance.  Rounding out the coaching staff are three Westwood coaches (Brad Wiljanen, Luke Gray and Eli Wolf).  Wiljanen and Gray have coached in the All-Star Game previously, and Gray played in the game as a senior for Westwood.  


The first practice is always about getting the players into the positions where they can benefit the team best.  The All-Star Game provides many opportunities for players to get experience in different positions they have not tried before.  With the small size of most U.P. high school rosters, the best players often play positions where they are needed most, and do not get a chance to experience other positions they might be more suited to play.  With so many great players all on the same team, the coaches are able to move players around to accentuate their strengths, so it is fun to watch the players thrive at multiple positions.  


Both teams spent time evaluating the talents of each player as they worked through the drills and formations.  The players started to immediately develop some chemistry with each repetition and play.  It was easy to see why these players were selected as the best in the U.P., because it did not take them long to settle into a practice routine and begin looking like a football team.  Both teams spent time in their individual position groups, as well as scrimmaging offense vs defense as an entire unit.  Spirits were definitely soaring when the groups came together and guys got a chance to finally hit each other, after so many months out of pads.  


It is hard to tell at this point which team has an advantage. Both teams are working hard to figure out their personnel and where each player can help the team in the best way. We will have to see how the week progresses, but both teams look to be very focused on their own game plans.  Each team has players with unique strengths, and the coaches are developing ways to get the most out of every player and create the most advantageous match-ups.  


The biggest impact on the draft, the game plan, and the overall atmosphere of the game is definitely the addition of “motion” to the offense.  Allowing an offensive player to go in motion opens up the game, and makes it significantly more difficult for the defense.  We should creative play-calling, and scoring, in this year’s game on Saturday.  

Day 2 (Tuesday) will see everyone settle in to a regular routine of two practices, along with Media Day in the evening.  Team and individual pictures will be taken and players will be available for interviews to any attending media. Players and coaches will be available for interviews at 6:45PM at the Dome.  

ONE LAST RIDE: U.P. Football All-Star Game Held
Sunday August 1, 2021
ALL-STAR LEADERS: Football Skills Events Held
Wednesday July 28, 2021