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Defense rules? Key stops allow Team Red to run away with Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game win, 49-25

Team Red’s Kai Lacar of Negaunee, left, hauls in this pass for a first-down completion in the fourth quarter as Team Black’s Wyatt Jenkins of Houghton defends the play during the 16th annual Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game held Saturday afternoon at the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

MARQUETTE — For a game that featured 11 touchdowns and 74 points, it was actually one team’s defense that made all the difference in the 16th annual Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon at the Superior Dome.

The cool, rainy day outdoors made for just about perfect conditions in the dome, where it can get rather steamy inside on a normally warm, early summer day.

And it produced plenty of big-play fireworks as Team Red prevailed 49-25 after rolling up several significant leads in the second and third quarters.

But it was Red’s defense that kept Black from really getting into the game.

Though Black trailed just 28-12 at halftime, the dark-uniformed squad didn’t score its first offensive TD until the final 17 seconds of the first half.

Team Black’s Evan Gauthier of Negaunee, left, battles former Miners’ teammate and Team Red’s Mitch Paltzer during a battle on the line late in the fourth quarter of the 16th annual Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game held Saturday afternoon at the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

Black took the opening kickoff and marched right downfield, using a 34-yard pass from quarterback Nate Young of Gladstone to Matt Colavecchi of Kingsford to move into the red zone.

But even with the Red defense flagged for a pair of pass interference penalties at the goal line and in the end zone, Black was stopped on third- and fourth-down-and-goal at the 1-yard line to give the ball to Red QB Tanner Theuerkauf of Menominee, running back Kai Lacar of Negaunee and wide receiver Wyatt Demers of Manistique.

That trio needed just four plays to escape the shadow of their own goal posts and then score when Theuerkauf, bound for Northern Michigan University this fall, heaved a long pass to a sprinting Demers, who caught it and finished his run untouched for an 80-yard TD.

While Red consistently moved the ball up and down the field, Black’s offense came in fits and spurts. Three times during the second and third quarters, Black went four-and-out, which is fine if you’re talking the Green Bay Packers’ Ice Bowl, but under these ideal conditions, Red just kept piling up points, scoring two TDs in each of the first three quarters.

Black’s only points before the final ticks just prior to halftime came when Ben Johnson of Escanaba ran in front of a pass thrown by Red’s other QB, Danny Marcotte of Lake Linden-Hubbell, and sprinted about 40 yards back to the end zone to make it 14-6.

Team Red running back Tucker Welch of Marquette, left, gets tangled up with Team Black defender Wyatt Jenkins of Houghton in the fourth quarter during the 16th annual Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game held Saturday afternoon at the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

Another NMU-bound player scored twice for Red — Jonny Ingalls of St. Ignace, though he’ll be putting up points on the scoreboard for the Wildcats on the basketball court.

He scored on a 26-yard toss from Theuerkauf that made it 14-0 midway through the opening quarter, then got loose for a 50-yard score from the same QB, both on the first play of those possessions.

Lacar, another athlete bound for NMU, and yes, for the football team, scored on a 1-yard bull rush midway through the second period and again on a 3-yarder in the late going.

He actually finished the day scoring 19 points as seven of his points came on his 7-for-7 performance on extra-point kicks. Even though it was set up for no rushing by the defense on those PAT tries, Black missed its first three attempts before Johnson connected on his final extra-point try in the game’s last three minutes.

“This went just the way I was hoping that it would,” Lacar said on the field after the game. “I didn’t expect anything different.

Team Red head coach Chad Brandt of Menominee, partially hidden with baseball cap at center right, celebrates with his team after winning the 16th annual Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game held Saturday afternoon at the Superior Dome in Marquette. Just to the left of Brandt is Conner Dupras of Gwinn, No. 3, and to Brandt’s right is Michael Floriano of Kingsford, No. 87. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“What was different from a regular high school game was how fast everyone is and how hard they hit. And, of course, how everyone is pretty big, too.”

He agreed that this might be a good preview for what he can expect when he takes the field at Northern, whether that’s this fall or in another year down the line.

Red scored its fourth TD of the first half with 54 seconds remaining on a 1-yard run by Landan Bardowski of Menominee, and with Lacar’s extra point, gave Red a hefty 28-6 lead.

After the ensuing kickoff, Young ran the two-minute — or in this case, the 40-second — offense to perfection to end the first half, connecting with Braves’ teammate Kaden Gibbs on a 13-yard strike with 17 seconds to go that got their team within two scores — or really three scores after they missed all those extra points.

Team Black then took the second-half kickoff — they were probably allowed both kickoffs to open each half as the team trailing at halftime — and marched in for a Elizin Rouse of Kingsford 3-yard TD run to pull within 28-18 with the third quarter barely five minutes old.

Hope had to spring eternal for the Black-clads, but it didn’t last long after Ingalls caught a Theuerkauf pass from midfield on the next play from scrimmage.

And Bardowski scored his second TD on a 29-yard pass from Theuerkauf about 4 1/2 minutes later on the game clock to make it a runaway at 42-18.

Black couldn’t produce any points for most of the fourth quarter, meaning Lacar’s final TD made it 49-18. Black saved a bit of face with 2:49 left when Colavecchi

snagged a 50-yard pass from Rouse that got Team Red past the 20-point barrier.

Both teams threw for more than 300 yards, but while Team Red rolled up 176 yards on the ground, Red had just 41.

Theuerkauf was a near-perfect 8 of 9 throwing the ball for 251 yards — pretty nifty at 31.4 yards per completion or 27.9 yards per attempt — with four of those completions for TDs of 80, 26, 50 and 29 yards.

Despite throwing the interception, Marcotte was nearly as good, completing 7 of 9 even as it was for just 83 yards to give their team a 15-of-18 line for 334 yards.

Team Black rolled up 305 yards in the air, completing 20 of 35 without a pick. Young was 8 of 14 for 136 yards and a TD, while Ethan Ives of Bark River-Harris was 9 of 18 for 97. Rouse and Gabe Luck of Newberry combined to complete all three of their pass attempts for a total of 72 yards and Rouse’s TD.

On the ground, Bardowski led Team Red and all rushers with 84 yards in nine carries. Also for Red, Tucker Welch of Marquette had 41 yards in 11 tries, while Lacar had 24 yards in six attempts. Rouse led Black with 24 yards in 13 carries as no one else on either team had more than 10 yards rushing.

Team Black’s Colavecchi was the go-to man throughout the game as he caught nine passes for 213 yards. Red spread out its catches, Demers gaining 91 yards in three completions, Ingalls 90 yards in five catches and Lacar 47 yards in three stabs.

Welch also had a 22-yard catch for Red, while Jayce Arseneau of Westwood made five catches for 18 yards. He could’ve caught a sixth, but the late first-half TD pass Gibbs caught initially went off Arseneau fingertips. But he kept the ball in the air long enough for a close-by Gibbs to snag it for the score.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 552. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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