By STEVE BROWNLEE
For The Daily News
MARQUETTE - This was an Upper Peninsula football coach's dream come true.
Rand Hruska Photo
North Dickinson quarterback Kenny Pekarek takes on the East’s Dustin Goupille (Negaunee), Curtis St. Louis ( St. Ignace) and Adam Francis ( Negaunee).
Rand Hruska Photo
John Grayvold Jr. of Norway (left) snags a low pass for the West’s first touchdown Saturday. Westwood’s Nate Clisch defends on the play.
Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo
Iron Mountain’s Taylor Huotari breaks up a pass while Kingsford’s Aidan Wienke moves in to help out.
But also his worst nightmare.
The East, led by Ishpeming's Jeff Olson, held on to win the U.P. All-Star Football Game at the Superior Dome, 19-13, on Saturday afternoon.
"Not only did we get to coach some great talent, but also some great kids," Olson said. "With a group like this, there's a lot more things you can do, but there's also a lot more your opponent can do to stop you.
"It's like a cat-and-mouse game out there."
For the players, Saturday was nothing but a reward for enduring a week of hot practices during their vacation following graduation.
"It was just a fun game, though everyone was pretty intense," said Cody Goldsworthy of L'Anse, who will attend and play football at Michigan Tech University. His highlights included a 61-yard punt and forced fumble.
"These were all good players," said Nate Clisch of Westwood.
The East, which included 21 players from Marquette, Alger, Luce and Schoolcraft counties, rolled up a 19-0 lead early in the third quarter before holding on with a fortunate non-call in the late going.
Following a missed 41-yard field goal try by the East's Alex Sherbinow of Marquette, the West got the ball back for the final time with 2:27 to go.
Quarterback Aaron Grinsteiner of Stephenson aired it out, managing to move his team 50 yards in about a minute and a half. He tried another pass down to about the 10-yard line when it looked like the receiver was knocked off his feet well before the pass arrived, though no pass interference call was made on the incompletion.
Olson immediately called timeout and on the next play, a third-and-5 from the East 30, Marquette's Joe Iwanicki and Pickford's James Bonnell broke loose on a full-out blitz to tackle Grinsteiner for a 10-yard loss.
The West took its final timeout, but Grinsteiner's desperation pass was flagged down by East cornerback Curtis St. Louis of St. Ignace for a game-clinching interception with 25 seconds to go.
St. Louis, who also intercepted a pass in the first quarter, earned the East's Defensive Most Valuable Player Award, while Iwanicki was honored with the team's Character Award.
"At the end, I think we wore them down with our bigger guys," said Iwanicki, an MTU-bound center-guard.
The East Offensive MVP was Ray'shon Anderson of Sault Ste. Marie, who caught three first-quarter passes for 150 yards, including a 95-yarder for a touchdown that made it 12-0.
They were the only passes completed by East quarterbacks Tanner Uren of Negaunee and David Falish of Escanaba. Falish had the long TD toss while Uren the other two.
The East's Zack Rankinen of Westwood was the game's leading rusher with 54 yards in just four carries, which included a 38-yard scoring rush. Rankinen hit the hole hard in the middle of the line and kept sprinting straight for the goal line with 11:01 to go in the third quarter to make it 19-0 following the extra point by Ishpeming's Eric Dompierre.
Uren finished with 43 yards on the ground in six carries, though Goldsworthy knocked the ball away after Uren's 22-yard gain on a bootleg in the third quarter.
Ishpeming's Eric Kostreva added 20 yards in 13 carries while Sherbinow had 14 yards in four tries.
In addition, Negaunee's Adam Francis recovered a fumble with the West driving deep in East territory in the first quarter that quickly turned into Anderson's long TD pass catch.
Ishpeming's Joey Lyle made two first-half QB sacks for losses totaling 31 yards, both stalling West drives in East territory.
For the West, coached by North Dickinson's Joe Reddinger, Norway's John Grayvold Jr. grabbed a 26-yard touchdown pass from Eric Lane in the third quarter.
In the final period, North Dickinson's Kenny Pekarek hit Menominee's Jared Rivard with a 45-yard touchdown pass. Iron Mountain's Paul Brooks kicked the PAT.
Kingsford's Reed Larson rushed for 43 of the West's 60 yards.
West 0 0 6 0 - 13
East 12 0 7 6 - 19
East - Kyle Root (Sault Ste. Marie) 5 pass from Tanner Uren (Negaunee), kick failed, 10:17
East - Ray'shon Anderson (Sault Ste. Marie) 95 pass from David Falish (Escanaba), kick failed, 7:11
East - Zack Rankinen (Westwood) 38 run, Eric Dompierre (Ishpeming) kick, 11:01
West - John Grayvold Jr. (Norway) 26 pass from Eric Lane (Gogebic), kick failed, 2:44
West - Jared Rivard (Menominee) 45 pass from Kenny Pekarek (North Dickinson), Paul Brooks (Iron Mountain) kick, 9:19
First downs - West, 14; East, 13
Rushes-yards - West, 43-60 (Reed Larson, Kingsford, 12-45); East, 44-172 (Rankinen, 4-54)
Comp-Att-Int-Yards - West, 15-32-1-237 (Austin Grinsteiner, Stephenson, 8-15-1-104; Pekarek, 3-7-0-80; Lane, 3-8-0-50; Rivard, 1-2-0-3); East, 3-13-1-150 (Falish, 1-3-1-95; Uren, 2-10-0-55).