MARQUETTE - A pair of area coaches were in the running for Coach of the Year honors, but ultimately two fairly unique stories propelled other coaches to win those honors as voted on by the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters at their fall meeting on Thursday.
Among the Little Schools - Division 8 for 11-man football and 8-man football - coach Bill Santilli of Forest Park won a runoff over Jeff Seaberg of Munising for the honor.
Each received nine votes in the first round of balloting as Mark Leaf of L'Anse earned two votes, then Santilli picked up those extra votes in the second round.
For the Big Schools honor, Karl Borree of Houghton earned the honors over Mike Berutti of West Iron County, Jeff Olson of Ishpeming and Joe Noha of Menominee.
Santilli, whose Trojans went 9-0 in the regular season, has been expected to announce his retirement as head coach at the end of this season, according to Iron County sources.
Completing his 17th season at Forest Park, he won UPSSA Coach of the Year honors in 2000, 2005 and 2008 and has been to the MHSAA playoffs every year under his reign, reaching the Division 8 championship game seven times from 2000-09 and winning a title in 2007.
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Seaberg took a team not expected to have a banner season and that started 0-3 to six straight wins and the Mustangs' second Division 8 playoff berth in three seasons. The final win that clinched the playoff berth with a 6-3 record was over L'Anse, which ended its regular season at 7-2. In his ninth year as head coach, Seaberg led Munising to just its fourth playoff berth in school history with other appearances coming in 2011, 1990 and 1980, when the school won the Class C state championship.
Among the Big Schools, Borree earned 10 votes by making a major turnaround in Houghton with a 6-3 record and a playoff berth. The Gremlins hadn't won more than three games in a season since 2001, which was also their last playoff appearance.
Berutti led WIC to its first-ever undefeated season at 9-0 as the Wykons made the playoffs for the 12th time in his 15 years there.
Olson is coming off a Division 7 state championship season at Ishpeming and at 9-0, led the Hematites to their second undefeated regular season in four years. Ishpeming won every game but one by more than 30 points.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org