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Delayed, but not gone: U.P. Football All-Star Game pushed back 5 weeks to Aug. 1

Black team's Ethan Martysz of Marquette, top, is pulled down by Red's Trevor Povolo of Kingsford during a punt return in the third quarter of the 12th annual Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game played at the Superior Dome in Marquette on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Looking on is defender Mitchell LeGrave of Norway. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)
Red team's Brady Eichmeier of North Central, left, pulls in a touchdown pass from quarterback Nathan Beckman of Westwood, not pictured, in the corner of the end zone while defended by Black's Reese Waara of L'Anse in the third quarter of the 12th annual Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game played at the Superior Dome in Marquette on Saturday, June 29, 2019. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

By Journal Sports Staff

MARQUETTE — The latest in a long line of sports-related casualties due to the coronavirus pandemic is only a postponement this time, rather than an outright cancellation.

Organizers of the Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game that was scheduled for the last weekend in June have pushed back their schedule and will now hold the game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, in the Superior Dome in Marquette. This is, of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted schedules of all kinds since mid-March.

An all-star week that includes numerous events leading up to the football game will be held starting Monday, July 27, according to a news release from executive director Todd Goldbeck of Xcel Foundation, which conducts the game.

Moving the game to the beginning of August was precipitated by Northern Michigan University announcing that its entire campus would be shut down through July. Rather than losing this game for the select group of recent graduates from all over the U.P., Goldbeck elected to delay it five weeks.

The dome will host the 13th annual version of the game since it was resurrected by Goldbeck in 2008 after a more than 50-year hiatus.

“Without the use of NMU’s facilities, it is like having to start over from scratch on many of the most important details,” Goldbeck said. “Because of that, and the uncertainty of the restrictions that may or may not be in place, we decided to move things ahead (about) one month.

“That gives us extra time to work out the new logistics, and things are already starting to come together. It also gives us the best chance for restrictions to loosen enough to have the game.

“I never considered canceling the game. That would be a last resort and will only happen if the state does not allow us to have it.”

A draft of recent high school seniors to determine the Red and Black team lineups was held on March 14 at Buffalo Wild Wings in Marquette. Among the 82 players selected were 23 from Marquette County schools and six more from Alger, Baraga and Schoolcraft counties combined.

Eight players came from Ishpeming High School, with six from Marquette, four each from Negaunee and Westwood, two apiece from L’Anse and Manistique, and one each from Gwinn, Munising and Superior Central.

Among the coaches are Ishpeming current head coach George Niemi and retired head coach Jeff Olson assisting St. Ignace’s Chris Marshall for the Red, and Negaunee head coach Paul Jacobson and assistant Dan Waterman with Black team head coach Andy Crouch of Lake Linden-Hubbell.

Goldbeck reiterated the tradition established with this game in his news release.

“Each year, seniors from around the U.P. come to Marquette to play in one last game before heading out into the world,” it reads. “Some go to college, some go into the military and some enter the workforce.

“The players spend an entire week practicing and preparing for the game on Saturday. They also perform charitable work in the community and get to spend time with other U.P. players who they previously may have known only through competition against each other during high school.

“The players stay in the dorms at Northern Michigan University and eat in the NMU cafeteria. They play the game in the Superior Dome.

“NMU recently announced the whole campus is shut down through the end of July. That means the 2020 U.P. Football All-Star Game would have been one of the many events that gets canceled due to the recent health crisis.

“It would be an example of this senior class having yet another high school rite of passage taken away from them without anything they can do about it … or maybe not.”

Proceeds from the game will be donated to Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, as well as the Marquette, Iron Mountain and Pickford high school football programs. The schools were chosen by lottery, with all U.P. football-playing schools chosen once before schools can repeat.

In addition, programs at Superior Central, L’Anse, Lake Linden-Hubbell and St. Ignace will receive donations of all-star game equipment, including practice jerseys and footballs.

Here is a rundown of the U.P. All-Star Week activities:

≤ Monday — players and coaches check in at the Holiday Inn of Marquette, with a drive for the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry also part of the check-in;

≤ Tuesday — media day that includes team and individual photos and interview availability with players and coaches for the media;

≤ Wednesday — the Players Skills Challenge that includes fastest and strongest players, along with receiver, quarterback, kicking and punting challenges;

≤ Thursday — the annual visit to Bay Cliff has been canceled due to this summer’s closure of the camp for children with physical disabilities;

≤ Friday — All-Star Banquet with a guest speaker to be announced.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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