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Football donations: Despite no game, U.P. all-star group donates $1,000 to a dozen high school programs

Black team kickoff returner Ethan Martysz of Marquette works his way through the Red defense for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game played at the Superior Dome in Marquette in June 2019. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“It is very important that all U.P. programs are supported so that each school can maintain a competitive team.” — Todd Goldbeck, Xcel executive director,

organization that conducts the U.P. Football All-Star Game

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MARQUETTE — The high school football programs at Marquette, Ishpeming and Munising high schools will benefit despite there being no Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game this summer.

They were among the dozen programs that each received $1,000 donations from the Xcel Foundation, which has conducted the all-star game since 2008. That was according to a sports news release sent out by email Tuesday from the group.

The game, which was first pushed back to early August before being canceled, has been held the past 12 years in Marquette at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome. A week of events with the players and coaches leads up to the game, including a banquet, food drive, skills competition and often a visit to the Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay.

Red team's Brody Sanville of Gladstone runs free with a clear path to the end zone in the fourth quarter of the 12th annual Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game played at the Superior Dome in Marquette on June 29, 2019. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“When this game was started, it was always a goal that we would eventually be able to donate directly to all of the high school football programs throughout the U.P.,” Xcel Executive Director Todd Goldbeck said in the news release. “Next year, we will finally achieve that goal, and that is due to the tremendous support that the U.P. communities have given this event over the years.”

Though the game was canceled, organizers had amassed some funds and there was enough left over to give out the $1,000 stipends to the 12 U.P. high school programs. The other schools receiving funds are Iron Mountain, Kingsford, Gladstone, Calumet, Hancock, Forest Park, North Central, Cedarville and Pickford.

These funds can be used for anything to benefit their football programs, which Goldbeck said might include equipment, weight room and uniforms.

“The lottery is a fun way to select the schools,” he said. “Every program is eligible, and it does not matter how successful the team is; everyone has a chance and gets a turn.

“It is very important that all U.P. programs are supported so that each school can maintain a competitive team. That is what the U.P. Football All-Star Game is all about.

“Because All-Star Week could not take place this year, we were able to donate to many more schools. I hope that the donations will help their football programs in a positive way for what is sure to be a difficult upcoming year.”

Four more schools received other donations due to the game.

The schools of the Black team and Red team head coaches each received a dozen new footballs to be used for practices and the game — that’s Andy Crouch of Lake Linden-Hubbell and Iffer Marshall of St. Ignace.

All-star practice jerseys went to two other schools and had been designed to match their school’s colors with the donated schools’ names on them. Royal blue jerseys go to Superior Central and purple ones to L’Anse.

Twenty-nine players from Marquette, Alger, Baraga and Schoolcraft counties were among the 82 who were chosen for the Red and Black at a mid-March draft.

Each of those players was scheduled to receive their game-related gear, including a custom game jersey and other All-Star-branded apparel and memorabilia.

Among the assistant coaches in the game were past Ishpeming head coaches Jeff Olson and George Niemi and Negaunee current head coach Paul Jacobson and assistant Dan Waterman.

Through the all-star game, Xcel makes a monetary donation to Bay Cliff and also to the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame to sponsor an annual scholarship for an all-star player.

“When the game is over, I always want to be in a position to say, ‘The All-Star Game did very well again this year. That means we gave back to many different groups/schools and the players had fun throughout the week, while also reinforcing some important life lessons they can take with them moving forward in their lives,'” Goldbeck said. “This year did not allow the players to have the same life-changing experiences as past groups, but they have been receiving their own life lessons that will no doubt shape the way they go into the world.

“Despite all the setbacks, the U.P. Football All-Star Game was able to give some much-needed donations again this year.”

Next year’s game is set for Saturday, June 26.

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

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