Going out with a bang: Black rolls in second half to 54-28 win over Red in 15th annual U.P. Football All Star Game
After trading touchdowns in the late stretches of the second quarter, the Red team captured all of the momentum heading into the locker room when Menominee’s Aidan Bellisle completed a 52-yard throw downfield on a double pass to Marquette’s Justin Jurmu for the touchdown as time expired. In the second half after being “chewed out,” according to Black Defensive MVP Westwood’s Marcus Boase, the Black team had an incredible second half.
The Black team erupted for 20 points in the third quarter and 13 more in the fourth to slam the door shut on this year’s Yooper Bowl. The 82 combined points is the most ever in an U.P. All Star Game, and 54 points put up by the Black squad is the most ever by a team. The 26-point win is also the second-highest margin of victory in an All Star Game, just trailing the 28-point win by the East in 2012.
“It was getting shady there for a little bit,” Boase said. “We just weren’t communicating in the secondary, but we got chewed out at halftime, (and) the scoreboard speaks for itself.”
The two Black MVP winners, Boase and Calumet’s Dryden Nelson, had huge second halves for their team to have such a dominant performance. Nelson scored five touchdowns in total, four rushing and one receiving, and scored four of them in the second half. Boase had three interceptions in the game, with two of them and a 65-yard pick six all coming in the second half.
Coming out of the locker room trailing by seven, the Black team marched down the field quickly before Nelson burst for a 22-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to one after the extra point was no good. A couple of possessions later, Westwood’s Zach Beckman rolled out and threw a deep ball to Nelson, who spun around a tackler and took it 70 yards to give Black the lead. If two touchdowns wasn’t enough in the third quarter, Nelson added a third with just over a minute remaining with a 10-yard rush to give his team a 41-28 advantage.
“It was fun to play one last game, and my linemen really stepped up and helped me get those five touchdowns for sure,” Nelson said.
The Red team didn’t have much time to turn it around as the fourth quarter began, and got into the red-zone after two fourth down connections between Gladstone’s Cam Kelly and Bellisle. However, the drive came to an abrupt end as Boase corralled his second pick of the game in the end-zone, and was tackled at the two-yard line. The Black team began to chew clock, and moved the ball to midfield with a couple of crucial third down conversions and a running into the kicker penalty on a punt.
Capping off a seven-minute, 98-yard drive, Nelson took a handoff up the left sideline and scooted past everybody for his fifth of the game with 3:47 to go. The now three-possession lead effectively ended the game. For one more nail in the coffin, Boase picked off a deep desperation pass from Kelly, and took it 65 yards to the end-zone.
“That second half, our defense just took the game over,” Black coach George Niemi said. “We challenged them at halftime, and they stepped up. I said this last night (Friday) at our banquet, that for 15 years, we’ve had one last chance to see our kids play the sport that they love. This is special for these guys, they were excited to be out there, and I’m so happy for them that they got this win.”
For the Black team, the pair of Westwood standouts Beckman and Zach Carlson each had touchdowns in the second quarter. Beckman plunged into the end-zone for a one-yard touchdown, while Carlson caught a three-yard pass earlier in the quarter from Sault Ste. Marie’s Jakob Davie.
The Red team had a strong first half, and had put themselves in position to win after taking a halftime lead. After trailing 7-0 early, Kelly found Bellisle for a 25-yard touchdown to even up the score.
The Red team also got two quarterback running touchdowns from Kelly and Marquette’s Austin Ridl in the second quarter before the deep pass from Bellisle to Jurmu to beat the buzzer. Even though the Red team came up short, it’s well-known that this week is about way more than the result of the game.
“We won the first half, but we didn’t win the second half,” Red coach Joe Noha said. “But our kids played hard, they had fun, they played together. I think if you interview any kid who’s ever been in this event, they’ll tell you that this is one of the top three things they’ve done in their life. As a coach, it’s top three for me.”
Bellisle earned Red Offensive MVP, while Bark River-Harris’s Trevor Lippens earned Red Defensive MVP. Chance Bridgers of Hancock and Justin Jurmu of Marquette earned the Jack Audette Character Awards.
Travis Nelson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.