Westwood’s Syrjala earns coaching honor

MARQUETTE — When he took over the Westwood football program two years ago, Westwood head coach Scott Syrjala had a big goal in mind.

He wanted to not just build a good team, but to change the culture around the program.

It wasn’t an easy task, but things all came together this season as the Patriots achieved the best record in school history, 8-1 in the regular season.

As a result of this big year, Syrjala was named Small Schools Coach of the Year at the annual Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association meeting Wednesday afternoon.

When asked how he felt earning such a big award, Syrjala did what he typically does — give credit to everyone else.

“It’s very humbling to get this award,” he said. “Any coach will tell you that you have to have good people around you that are buying into what you believe, and that’s what I have.

“The first guy I brought in, and I even said I’m not going to take the job if I can’t do that, is Brad Wiljanen. He’s our offensive and defensive line coach and you can see his effect because we have two guys on the Dream Team. That’s because of him.

“It’s not only because of him, but he’s a big part of that. He’s super smart and he helps me out tremendously.

“The other two guys, Steve Blum and Mitch Messing, have also really bought into our program and have helped us have a good year.”

Westwood kicks off in the Division 7 Region 1 district final at Lake City at 1 p.m. today.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.