MARQUETTE - Eric Kostreva has long hoped he'd one day play in the annual Upper Peninsula All-Star Football Game at the Superior Dome in Marquette.
"I've been going to the game every year since it started," the Ishpeming High School star running back said. "It's fun to watch and I've always wanted to play in that game. It has been one of my goals."
Kostreva, an All-U.P. Large Schools Offensive Team selection this past season, will get his chance Saturday. He'll be a member of the East team playing the West at 3 p.m.
Ishpeming’s Eric Kostreva breaks out of the pack and heads upfield for a 52-yard run, setting up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter against Detroit Loyola in the Hematites’ MHSAA Division 7 state football championship win on Nov. 24, 2012, in Detroit. Kostreva will play for the East at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Superior Dome in the 2013 U.P. Football All-Star Game. (AP photo)
"It's not going to be the same without my (Ishpeming) blue jersey and playing for the last time with my friends and teammates," Kostreva said. "But it's still going to be fun."
The 2012 Mid-Peninsula Conference Back of the Year, he rushed for 1,153 yards (7.3 average) while scoring 17 touchdowns.
Kostreva ran for 182 yards on 20 carries and scored three TDs in Ishpeming's 20-14 victory over Detroit Loyola last season for the MHSAA state Division 7 championship.
He'll be joined at the All-Star game by IHS teammates Eric Dompierre, Joey Lyle, RJ Poirier and Brad Wootke.
"I'm just going to play like I always play," the 5-8, 175-pound Kostreva said of his game goals. "I'm an instinctive runner and every play, I give 100 percent. You'll never see me slacking."
He has been working out six days a week at Advantedge Sports Training in Marquette to get ready for the game and his future career as a Michigan Tech University recruit.
"I'm in good shape now, but I'll actually be peaking just before training camp in college," Kostreva said.
He said it'll be "awesome" once again to be playing for All-Star East head coach Jeff Olson, the longtime IHS mentor.
"He's the best coach I've ever had," Kostreva said. "It's definitely going to be emotional."
Olson will be the East head coach for the second time, the first coming in 2008. He served as an assistant coach in 2010.
"I'm the only East head coach who has ever lost," Olson chuckled, recalling a 38-21 West win in 2008. Since then, the East has won four straight games.
"But it's a great experience. It's great working with some of the best players in the U.P. You're coaching great athletes and great kids."
He added coaching some of his former players will be a highlight.
"It's going to be fun seeing them perform once more under less stress than that last (title-winning) game," Olson said. "It was a goal they wanted to achieve and they're looking forward (to the game)."
He said finding enough playing time for all of his East charges will be the toughest part of the coaching experience.
"Everyone wants to play at least half of the game," Olson said. "The kids are used to playing all the time. We'll want to be competitive, but we'll also try to make it fair for everyone."
He will be assisted by Scott Syrjala and Dion Brown of IHS; Brad Wiljanen of Bark River-Harris; Marti Spencer of St. Ignace; and Gordi Campbell and Mike Lynn of Sault Ste. Marie.
The West coaches are Joe Reddinger and Mike Christian of North Dickinson; Jerry Reddinger and Jeff Harry of Kingsford; Chad Brandt and Logan Carlson of Stephenson; and Troy Reuter of Menominee.
The game is being organized by Todd Goldbeck, president/owner of the sponsoring Excel Sports Training company out of Middleton, Wis.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.