Comeback denied for West All-Stars

MARQUETTE – The West All-Stars got going but not in enough time to get ahead during Saturday’s U.P. Football All-Star Game, as East won the sixth-annual showcase for the fifth straight time, 19-13.

“It’s never fun to lose, but it’s just a fun week,” Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Alex Knight, one of nine local players to see time in the contest, said.

With the help of some big plays through the air to East Offensive Most Valuable Player Ray’Shon Anderson of Sault Ste. Marie, West found itself down two touchdowns barely halfway through the first quarter. One more big play to start the third put West down 19-0, but West rallied to where a foot here or a flag there would have put the outcome in doubt to the final whistle.

“Every group, they just had a ton of weapons and the (offensive) line, just big people and tough to move around,” said Calumet’s Clark Kangas.

East QB Tanner Uren (Negaunee) hit Anderson for two passes on the game-opening drive, the second a 48-yard bomb down the left sideline to the West 9-yard line. Three plays later, Uren bootlegged left and hit another Sault Blue Devil, Kyle Root, for the score.

West drove into the red zone, only for Adam Francis (Negaunee) to rip the ball from Reed Larson’s (Kingsford) hands for a fumble. After an illegal procedure penalty pushed East to its own 5, Anderson showed how irrelevant the field position was by breaking behind the defense to take David Falish’s (Escanaba) pass 95 yards to the house.

West stabilized the game through a scoreless second quarter only to give up another big play on its first defensive series of the third, a 38-yard TD run up the gut from Zack Rankinen (Westwood).

“They had a big, big D-line. Give them credit,” Hancock’s Ross Michaels said. “We really couldn’t run it between the tackles, they knew we were going to sweep it or air it out.”

The West breakthrough came two series later when Gogebic Miners quarterback Eric Lane found John Grayvold, Jr., in the end zone with a 26-yard pass. The Knight juggled the ball and an East defender before securing the former and fending off the latter to cut the gap to 19-6.

Cody Goldsworthy (L’Anse) forced a fumble early in the fourth quarter to set West up for its second TD drive, as North Dickinson QB Ken Pekarek hit Menominee’s Jared Rivard, who got behind his man for a 45-yard touchdown.

East coach Jeff Olson (Ishpeming) engineered the sort of clock-killing drive that made his Hematites famous late in the quarter, but after 13 straight runs, a bad snap sabotaged an Alex Sherbinow 41-yard field goal and gave West 2:27 to tie or win.

Stephenson QB Austin Grinsteiner moved West into position, with a 10-yard wheel route to Michaels one of the key plays. Grinsteiner hit Rivard for a first down at the East 30 and dialed up a receiver up the middle on the next play, drawing contact but no flag, a decision vehemently protested by the West sideline.

James Bonnell (Pickford) sacked Grinsteiner for a 10-yard loss on the next play before Grinsteiner threw a desperation interception to Austin St. Louis (St. Ignace), his second pick of the day en route to East Defensive MVP honors.

“We had a chance to tie it and possibly win, but overall it doesn’t really matter,” Kangas said.

Kangas was one of four Copper Kings to participate. Owen Kariniemi played defensive back, while Anders Bjorn and Kyle Larson played several snaps side-by-side on the left of the offensive line.

Michaels was the only local to rack up significant offensive stats, gaining 11 yards on four carries and catching two passes for 26 yards. He also returned several kicks.

Other local participants included Seth Rowles (Ontonagon) and Logan Maki (Ewen-Trout Creek).

“I know we’ve only been together one week, but it feels like we’re brothers here,” Michaels said.

Rivard went on to earn West Offensive MVP honors, while the West defensive MVP was Dillon Hanchek of North Central.