23 area gridders chosen All-U.P.
MARQUETTE — It was a strong year for football in the Central Upper Peninsula and it showed in the results of the All-U.P. football team.
Led by 10 Dream Team selections, the area produced 23 players on the All-U.P. football squad.
Escanaba led the way with six selections, followed by Gladstone with five, Rapid River and North Central with four apiece, and Manistique, Bark River-Harris, Superior Central and Carney-Nadeau with one apiece.
The area had Six Dream Team players in 11-player football (Escanaba’s Scout Wunder, Johnathan Schlenvogt and Logan Caroll, Gladstone’s Darin Johnson and Alex Chouinard and Manistique’s Kyle Seeley) and four Dream Team players in Eight-player football (North Central’s Hunter Riley and Rapid River’s Logan Hardwick, Lucas Sundstrom and Gavin Harris).
(See accompanying sports stories on the 11-player Dream Team and Eight-player honor squad.)
Other Esky players earning All-U.P. were linebacker Cody Vandermissen, defensive back Hayden Haslow and specialist Joshua Grassel.
Vandermissen averaged 9.7 tackles, with six sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries at middle linebacker. He controlled the defensive middle and also doubled as a bruising fullback on offense.
“Cody Vandermissen was a true beast this year,” Esky coach Dave Howes said. “He is the toughest kid I have ever coached. I can’t say enough about this kid and what he has meant for our program.”
Haslow excelled as a defensive back with his speed and aggressive play. He averaged 8.3 tackles, four interceptions, with three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
“He is one of the bigger hitters at his position and also plays a very intelligent style,” Howes said. “He is a two-year starter and a main reason for our success the last couple of seasons.”
Grassel was versatile defensive back and wide receiver. He averaged close to 25 yards per kick return.
“Josh would either get a good return or get a good block on our kick returns,” Howes said. “His quickness, toughness and intelligence made him a special player this year.”
Doby Gillis, Christian Creten and Jeff Stenson made the honor squad as defensive linemen. Gillis also was the Big School punter.
Creten had 49 tackles, 18 solos, six sacks, one safety and a touchdown on a fumble return as a defensive end.
“He was just all over the place,” Gladstone coach Jeff Hansen said. “He’s a kid that doesn’t leave the field. He gets after the quarterback.”
Stenson was another defensive end, who recorded 45 tackles, 20 solos, eight tackles for loss and two sacks.
“He was our strong side defensive end and outside linebacker and it was his job to set the edge on the strong side and he did a good job doing it,” Hansen said.
Gillis was another tough defensive lineman who also was a weapon with his punting. He had 22 punts for a 36-yard average.
“You would be hard-pressed to find a better punter,” Hansen said. “He was an impact player. We won the field position battle in almost all of our games.”
In the Small School area, Bark River-Harris was represented by quick, powerful standout defensive end Mike Hall. He recorded 83 tackles, eight solos for lost yardage and four sacks, with 170 tackles in his three-year varsity career.
“His main strength as a football player is his aggressiveness,” Broncos’ coach Al Stenberg said about Hall, who doubles as a tight end on offense. “He has a motor that won’t quit and he loves contact. People have been running away from him for three years.”
Earning special mention with two or more votes were Escanaba receiver Ryan Robinette and quarterback Craig Kamin, Gladstone running back Owen Hanson and receiver Spencer Husbye, and Bark River-Harris defensive back Ryan Arndt.
Team of the Year honors went to Kingsford (A-B), Westwood (C) and West Iron County (D-8).
Coach of the Year honors went to Kingsford’s Chris Hofer (Large School) and Westwood’s Scott Syrjala. Escanaba coach Dave Howes finished a close second to Hofer in the Large School voting.