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All-Star countdown: 14th edition of Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game less than 2 weeks away

Marquette’s Brady Wright, left, runs around the right end for an 18-yard run against Sault Ste. Marie on Sept. 24 in Marquette. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

Game time:

1 p.m. on Saturday, July 31, at the Superior Dome in Marquette; among 82 players are 18 from area schools

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MARQUETTE — Preparations are well underway as the 14th annual Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game is scheduled to take place in less than two weeks at the Superior Dome in Marquette.

Last year’s 13th edition of the game couldn’t be held despite several postponements due to the coronavirus pandemic that was raging last summer.

Nevertheless, a dozen U.P. football programs received $1,000 donations in 2020 from its organizers, who had amassed funds in anticipation of the game. Among the schools receiving the donations were Marquette, Ishpeming and Munising. In addition, Superior Central and L’Anse programs received All-Star practice jerseys.

Muskegon quarterback Ayden Willacker, center, is sacked by Marquette defenders, from left, Tye Parker, Wyatt Kuhlman and Chris Ricker in the first quarter of their MHSAA Division 1 high school football playoff game played at William R. Hart Stadium in Marquette on Oct. 31. Parker will play for the Red team in the upcoming U.P. Football All-Star Game. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

This year’s game will donate proceeds to the Ontonagon, St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie football programs. A drawing is held each year for the schools to receive donations with all U.P. programs put into the rotation.

Now that all programs have received a donation, the lottery begins again with all schools eligible next year.

Several other schools — Bark River-Harris, West Iron County, Engadine and Stephenson — are receiving donations this year of All-Star game equipment, including practice jerseys and footballs.

This year’s game was again pushed back from its usual late June date by about a month and is now scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 31. Doors open at noon.

A list provided by the Xcel Foundation, sponsors of the game, shows 42 players on the Black team’s roster and 40 on the Red. All were high school seniors this past school year and were invited by organizers.

Negaunee's Lukas Nelson, center, runs the ball against Grayling during their MHSAA Division 6 regional championship football game played in Grayling on Jan. 9. (Traverse City Record-Eagle photo by James Cook)

The rosters include 18 players from area schools in Marquette, Alger, Baraga, Luce and Schoolcraft counties, eight on the Black team and 10 on the Red.

Four years ago, organizers decided to try a draft of players, rather than splitting them geographically on a North-South or East-West basis, for more competitive balance.

What started as a novelty has become entrenched as games have become more competitive and the draft by coaches has become an event in itself.

This spring, due to continuing pandemic concerns, the draft was still held, but virtually by each coaching staff and reported on social media.

Coaches put in research on the players to put together their best possible offensive and defensive units, according to organizers, which also means traditional rivals and teammates could be either teammates or opponents for the all-star game.

Negaunee's Lukas Nelson gets showered with frozen grass from cleats of Grayling players after being tackled while carrying the ball during their MHSAA Division 6 regional championship football game played in Grayling on Jan. 9. (Traverse City Record-Eagle photo by James Cook)

Current and former coaches at Ishpeming and Westwood high schools were chosen as part of the coaching staffs.

For Black, former head coaches Jeff Olson and George Niemi of Ishpeming are assistant coaches, while for the Red, current Westwood assistants Luke Gray, Brad Wiljanen and Eli Wolf are listed as that team’s assistant coaches.

Here is a listing of area players from schools in Marquette, Alger, Baraga, Luce and Schoolcraft counties. Included is the jersey number they have been assigned:

BLACK

Marquette — Kameron Karp, #23; Brady Wright, #34; Ty Lotterman, #88

Marquette's Ty Lotterman, center, lunges across the goal line for a touchdown pass reception while defended by Muskegon Reeths-Puffer's Caden Brainard in the second quarter of their MHSAA Division 3 high school playoff game on Oct. 31 at the William R. Hart Stadium in Marquette. Referee Buzz Tiseo, right, gets ready to call the play. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

Negaunee — Lukas Nelson, #26; Parker Cain, #99

Gwinn — Reid Hill, #0; Mastin Love, #13

Newberry — Logan Depew, #15

RED

Negaunee — Eli Luokkala, #0; Preston Toutant, #55

Munising — Chad Trepczyk, #25; Ethan Lakosky, #44

Marquette — Tye Parker, #76

Westwood — Garrett Mann, #9

Gwinn — Cameron Ghiringhelli, #52

L’Anse — Flash Gagnon, #28

Newberry — Ivan Oswald, #24

Manistique — Lucas Gould, #80

The weeklong lead-up to the game is also back this year.

On Monday, players and coaches check in at the dome, which includes a food drive for St. Vincent de Paul, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Next Tuesday, is media day that includes team and individual photos. Players and coaches will be available for interviews by media members.

On Wednesday, July 28, the Players Skills Challenge will be held in the dome with competition in events such as fastest and strongest men and challenges in kicking and punting and for receivers and quarterbacks.

Thursday, July 29, has normally been reserved for a trip to the Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, but the Bay Cliff site isn’t open this summer due to health restrictions from the pandemic. Instead, All-Star players and coaches will host an All-Star Youth Football Camp in the dome from 6:30-8 p.m. with kids ages 6 and up welcome.

Those attending will be divided into age-appropriate groups for various stations and drills led by All-Star players and coaches, organizers said. The first 150 kids receive a free camp T-shirt from Culver’s and Loyal Tees.

The camp is free, though organizers say they’ll request a $5 donation to support its various charitable donations.

On Friday, July 30, is the All-Star Banquet in the evening, providing family and friends a chance to connect with players after their week of activities and practices. Recognition from the Skills Challenge will be made and players receive their All-Star rings, according to organizers. A guest speaker still to be announced will also attend.

A complete list of players and coaches is included at the All-Star game website, upfootballallstargame.com.

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

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