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Right down the middle

Area players drafted almost equally between teams for U.P. All-Star Football Game

MARQUETTE — The 30 area players drafted in the third annual Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game were almost evenly split between the Black and Red sqauds.

Players were chosen in the draft, which was held March 16 at Buffalo Wild Wings in Marquette Township, by the 16 U.P. coaches who will work with the teams leading up to the game to be played near the end of June in the Superior Dome in Marquette.

The split of area players was 16 for the Black team and 14 for the Red. The area schools represented are Gwinn, Ishpeming, L’Anse, Marquette, Munising, Negaunee, Newberry, Superior Central and Westwood.

Ishpeming High School has most representation with six players, followed by five each from Marquette and Westwood; three each from Gwinn, Negaunee and Superior Central; two each from Munising and Newberry; and one from L’Anse.

Those 30 area players represent more than a third of the 88 who were available in the draft. All players in the game, to be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 29, must be high school seniors at U.P. schools who have used up their MHSAA eligibility in football.

The all-star coaches know the area players well as those staffs also had heavy representation from area schools.

In fact, the Black coaching staff is made up entirely of coaches from Westwood and Ishpeming high schools. Patriots head man Scott Syrjala is the Black team head coach, while recently retired Ishpeming mentor Jeff Olson will be among his assistants.

The other Black team assistants are assistant coaches at those two schools — Brad Wiljanen, Chad Hewitt, Scott “Erl” Mann and Jake Wolf from Westwood; and George Niemi, Kyle Rundman and Mike Walker from Ishpeming.

The Red team head coach is Manistique assistant coach Cody Kangas with a staff that includes Emeralds head man Todd Kangas, Negaunee head coach Paul Jacobson, West Iron County head coach Mike Berutti and North Dickinson head coach Mike Christian.

The Red staff is rounded out by Manistique assistant coach Tyler Kangas and Pickford assistant coach Garde Kangas.

The all-star game, now in its 12th year organized by Xcel Sports Training owner Todd Goldbeck, determined teams geographically in its first nine years, either north-south or east-west.

But when the draft was tried in 2017, organizers found the game more competitive and kept this system.

Former high school teammates now often find themselves on opposite sides of the ball while at the same time teaming up with former opponents.

With the nearly even split of area players on the Red and Black squads, it’s not surprising that only one area school’s players will find themselves all on the same team in June — that’s Superior Central, whose three representatives will be on the Red team.

Players and coaches take part in a week full of events leading up to the game, which includes a canned food drive, media day, skills challenge, visit to Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay and an All-Star banquet.

Tickets are available for $7 at the door or $6 in advance by visiting the U.P. Football All-Star Game website at http://upfootballallstargame.com/UPFBTickets.aspx.

DVDs and official game programs are also available at the website, as are photos that can be downloaded for free at http://upfootballallstargame. com/UPFBMerchandise.aspx.

Proceeds from the game will be donated to Beacon House, the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame and to Brimley and North Dickinson schools.

Equipment, including practice jerseys and football, will be donated to Westwood, Manistique and Sault Ste. Marie high schools.

Here is the draft of area players, listed alphabetically, by the team each will play for. Full rosters are available at the all-star game website at http://upfootballallstargame.com/UPFBRosters.aspx:

BLACK — head coach Scott Syrjala; Ashton Bergman, Westwood; Bryce Brazeau, Marquette; Alex Cannoot, Marquette; Eddy Chapman, Gwinn; Brandon Christiansen, Newberry; Sam Gilles, Westwood; Blake Hewitt, Westwood; Hayden Mann, Westwood; Ethan Martysz, Marquette; Mason Schieding, Munising; Drake Sundberg, Ishpeming; Gavin Sundberg, Ishpeming; Matthew Trawick, Ishpeming; Brayden Velmer, Negaunee; Reese Waara, L’Anse; Alex Zampese, Negaunee

RED — head coach Cody Kangas; Seth Aho, Gwinn; Peyton Anderson, Negaunee; Nathan Beckman, Westwood; Roubens Fink, Superior Central; Noah Groulx, Superior Central; Josh Iwanicki, Marquette; Jaylen James, Newberry; Logan Kruhlik, Ishpeming; Anthony Mattson, Munising; Devon Nyman, Ishpeming; Beau Rondeau, Superior Central; Hunter Smith, Ishpeming; Tucker Taylor, Gwinn; Beau Zorza, Marquette

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal. net.