MARQUETTE - The head coach of the defending MHSAA Division 7 state football champion Ishpeming Hematites will be the guest speaker at tonight's All-Star Banquet as part of the events leading up to Saturday's U.P. All-Star Football Game to be played at the Superior Dome.
IHS coach Jeff Olson and the Hematites went through incredible highs and lows last season, winning the state title but also facing the deaths of two members of recent teams, including his son Daniel.
In the midst of that, the Ishpeming football and basketball teams helped change Michigan High School Athletic Association policy when Eric Dompierre was allowed to play his senior season at age 19.
Olson, born and raised in Marquette, has coached football for 31 years, including the last 21 as head coach of the Hematites varsity team where he has a 144-78 record with three Mid-Peninsula Conference and eight district championships and a state runner-up finish in 2010 to go with the state title.
He has added responsibilities as head boys basketball coach at Ishpeming for the coming season.
Olson, who is also coaching the East in Saturday's all-star game, said he will talk to the all-star players about teamwork, supporting each other through adversity and the family atmosphere that football specifically and athletics in general provides.
On Thursday, all-star game players and coaches visited Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, with players acting as coaches to show campers about football drills and skills.
Bay Cliff provides therapy and is a wellness center for children ages 3-17 with physical disabilities.
Among the activities were campers receiving handoffs and making their way through a tunnel of players to an end zone, where they could practice their celebration dances.
Souvenir programs were distributed that included players photos and profiles, many campers getting autographs to personalize them.
Players and campers then had dinner together, with players learning proper manners that campers observe at mealtime.
All-star Joe Iwanicki of Marquette spoke to all afterward, thanking Bay Cliff on behalf of players and coaches.
"We will all remember our time spent here with you for a very long time," Iwanicki said.