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Showing their stuff: Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game players take part in Skills Challenge

Brandon Christensen of Newberry, center, runs the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds to win the Fastest Man competition among non-linemen in the Skills Challenge on Wednesday afternoon as part of the week-long activities leading up to Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

“After about 10 reps, you start to feel it. You get so tired that you start to black out…. All your friends are there hyping you up, so you’re basically doing it for them.” — Logan Kruhlik, Ishpeming High School lineman, winner of the Strongest Man competition among linemen

in the U.P. Football All-Star Skills Challenge

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MARQUETTE — The main event may be a couple days away, but the U.P. Football All-Star Game players got a chance to strut their stuff during the Skills Challenge on Wednesday afternoon in the Superior Dome.

Two Northern Michigan University recruits won their events, the first Ishpeming defensive lineman Logan Kruhlik, last fall’s All-Upper Peninsula Small School Defensive Player of the Year. He won the Strongest Man challenge by performing 22 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. Gwinn tight end and Michigan Tech signee Tucker Taylor won the non-lineman event by completing 10 reps.

“That’s not even my PR,” Kruhlik said with a laugh, referring to his personal record. “Since I had the (Michigan High School Football Coaches Association) all-star game last week (in the Saginaw area), I haven’t lifted in about two weeks. That’s the first time I’ve touched a weight in two weeks, so I wasn’t mad about it, that’s for sure. That was definitely a good number.

Tucker Taylor of Gwinn readies for his opportunity in the Receiver competition during the Skills Challenge on Wednesday afternoon as part of the week-long activities leading up to Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game. While Taylor didn’t win for receivers, he did win the Strongest Man contest among non-linemen. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

“After about 10 reps, you start to feel it. You get so tired that you start to black out. You’ve just got to keep going. All your friends are there hyping you up, so you’re basically doing it for them.”

Another incoming Wildcat was West Iron County’s Caden Pellizzer. A wide receiver for the Wykons, he won the Quarterback Challenge for longest pass of all things, a 57-yard throw.

After playing in the Superior Dome on Saturday, Pellizzer will spend at least the next four years there when he plays on the other side of the ball as a defensive back. When asked what Northern’s biggest selling point was for him, it was the field he was playing on.

“The dome and not playing in the cold all the time,” he said. “I’ve always played here in middle school and then we made it here my junior year for the (MHSAA Division 8) state semifinals. I’ve had a lot of games here, but it’s definitely special.”

In regard to his final game with high school players — now graduates — this weekend, Pellizzer said he’s just looking forward to having one more time on the field with guys he’s never competed with before.

“It’s really just about having fun with everyone in the U.P. that you don’t get to play with or get to play against,” he said. “It’s just about coming together and having fun.”

In the 40-yard dash competition, at least a dozen players attempted the event, but in the end, Newberry’s Brandon Christensen took the title, edging out Marquette wide receiver and Tech commit Ethan Martysz. The fastest lineman was Collin Broemer of Gogebic with a time of 4.81 seconds.

“I had high hopes, but I didn’t think I was going to win,” Christensen said. “I ran track at Newberry for three years and there was a lot of competition in the U.P. But then I moved downstate my senior year after football season took over and I went down there for track at Litchfield High School.

“I learned a lot from them being down there. It was a lot of practice and a lot of hard work and dedication and them pushing me to my limits. I was running 4.9 over a month ago, but with the will and the power that I have that they gave me and pushed me to my limits, I pulled out a 4.54 here.”

An All-U.P. Small School running back, Christensen said he’ll play downstate at Alma College before he plans to transfer to Michigan State, where he hopes to walk-on with the Spartans. As far as Saturday’s game goes, Christensen wants to just go out with a big performance in his last game up in the U.P.

“This game means the world to me,” he said. “I didn’t even think about the all-star game going through my high school career. I just thought about winning and having a good time and being the best running back that I can be going into the season. When I found out that I got to participate, I was just ecstatic and prepared and ready to go.

“It’s one last time to strap the cleats on as a high school player and give it my all.”

Other winners included Menominee’s Shawn Sandahl in the Kicking Challenge (50 yards), Sault Ste. Marie’s Tate Kay in the Punting Challenge (67 yards) and Rapid River’s Nathan Olson in the non-lineman Receiver Challenge.

Kruhlik took home his second title of the day by winning the lineman Receiver Challenge.

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