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Fall sports teams have a lot to be proud of

Austin Hemmingson

ESCANABA — Another fall sports season has come and gone. With Carney-Nadeau’s volleyball loss to Rudyard in the state quarterfinals Tuesday, all area teams are now done with fall sports, and all have a lot to be proud of.

In football, Escanaba continues to make going 7-2 look very routine under head coach Dave Howes. The Eskymos have made the playoffs in each of Howes’ five seasons, but this year they suffered a first-round defeat to Cadillac. It still wasn’t a bad season when you consider they filled 12 All-U.P. spots, which was twice as many as any other school.

North Central put together what should be considered a dream regular season in eight-man. The Jets went 9-0, had the U.P. Offensive Player of the Year in Noah Gorzinski, Coach of the Year Leo Gorzinski, and were named Team of the Year. North Central’s defense gave up just 48 points all season.

The Jets fell to Pickford in the final minute of their regional final, a game I’m sure the folks in Powers would love to have back. But that doesn’t take away from their spectacular season.

Bark River-Harris put a five-win season together to return to the playoffs after missing out a year ago. The Broncos then ran into traditional power Ishpeming, but making the playoffs is always a positive, especially when you’re coming off a 2-7 season.

Rapid River missed the playoffs for just the first time in nine years under Steve Ostrenga, but that’s something that should be celebrated — making the playoffs eight straight years. The Rockets started 0-3, but then responded nicely to win four of their final six games to finish 4-5.

Manistique senior tailback Schyler Andersen set the Emeralds’ all-time single-season rushing record with 1,491 yards, breaking Ronn Rubick’s record of 1,388 set in 1959. Andersen’s play helped the Emeralds win three home games after previously not winning at home since 2012.

Gladstone started 2-0 before things started to go downhill. The Braves still picked up a nice 20-7 homecoming win over playoff-bound Sault Ste. Marie, and safety Cole Hansen finished as the school’s all-time leading tackler with over 300 tackles.

Carney-Nadeau set a new program record for wins after finishing 4-5 behind spectacular play from do-it-all tailback Brett LaFord. The Wolves were a play away against Superior Central from finishing with a winning record and potentially making the playoffs.

Speaking of Superior Central, the Cougars were 2-0 before the injury bug bit so bad they ended the season playing their ninth quarterback. Wide receiver Zach Englund was picked as an All-U.P. first team selection in his first season ever playing football.

In volleyball, the forementioned Wolves won a second straight Skyline Central Conference title and regional title before falling in the quarters.

Two teams — Escanaba and Mid Peninsula — won their first ever district titles.

Last but not least, Manistique won a second straight Mid-Peninsula Conference title and district crown before falling to powerhouse Traverse City St. Francis in the regional final. Off the court, the Emeralds earned the Team Academic All-State Award with a cumulative GPA of 3.81.

Impressive stuff.

Gladstone’s Andie Balenger earned Division 1 all-state honors in tennis. Balenger was runner-up at the Great Northern Conference meet after a dominating season under first-year coach Ryan Barron.

In cross country, Gladstone teammates Giovanni Mathews and Drew Hughes and Mid Peninsula teammates Daisy Englund and Landry Koski were named to the All-U.P. Dream Team. Englund captured the Skyline Central Conference title in a school-record 19 minutes, 40.9 seconds and Koski was crowned U.P. D-3 champion for the first time.

For more information on cross country, just talk to our longtime veteran John Vrancic, who still doesn’t get enough credit for the job he does around here. I’m pretty sure if I tried to cover a cross country meet, John wouldn’t let me. That’s about the only time he’d ever say no to anybody, by the way.

Fall has always been my favorite sports season. I love football, and I’ve really gotten an appreciation for the other three sports I referred to after I started working here Oct. 1 of last year.

Basketball is great, but the season drags on for what seems like forever. Spring is awesome just because of the weather and getting back outdoors, but if you had to make me choose which is my favorite for prep sports, I’d go with fall every time.

This fall was no exception. I saw a lot of great things, and a lot of great things our area teams, coaches and athletes should be proud of.

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