Top U.P. football players selected


Sports Writer

MARQUETTE – U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association has recognized Iron County’s unbeaten football teams.

UPSSA, in a meeting this week, named Forest Park as the Class D Team of the Year and Bill Santilli as the premier “Small School” coach. The Trojans also landed two “Dream Team” picks plus five others.

West Iron County, like Forest Park a 9-0 regular season team, gained two “Dream Team” selections and three more on the “Large School” squad.

WIC’s Mike Berutti was runner-up to Houghton’s Karl Borree for “Large School” Coach of the Year. The Wykons also wound up second to unbeaten Ishpeming for Class C Team of the Year.

Hematites quarterback Alex Briones was the unanimous choice for Large School Offensive Player of the Year. Briones passed for 13 scores and also rushed for 13.

Menominee linebacker Ryne Francour (74 tackles) won out over West Iron County defensive end Andrew Peterson for Large School Defensive Player of the Year. Peterson, a three-year starter, tallied 12 quarterback sacks and three fumble recoveries for a defense that yielded 33 points this season.

Ishpeming’s Jeff Olson and Menominee’s Joe Noha also received “Large School” Coach of the Year support. Berutti guided the Wykons to their first 9-0 regular season.

Santilli became a four-time coach of the year, copping the “Small School” award over Munising’s Jeff Seaberg, L’Anse’s Mark Leaf and North Central’s Kevin Bellefeuil.

In other “Small School” awards, North Central linebacker Eric Prestay prevailed over North Dickinson’s Brad Gustafson, Forest Park’s Lee Graff and St. Ignace’s Gage Kreski for the top defensive player.

Prestay posted 110 tackles for the Jets. Gustafson triggered a defense that helped the Nordics to a state-record 23 straight trips to the playoffs.

Graff, sidelined last season with a knee injury, spearheaded the Trojans with 90 tackles (60 solo).

Rapid River quarterback Jake Pearson, who registered brilliant numbers in eight-man football, garnered the offensive award. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior accounted for over 2,300 passing and rushing yards.

Menominee was the unanimous choice for Class A-B Team of the Year. West Iron County and North Central denied Ishpeming and Forest Park from sweeping the Class C and D awards, respectively.

West Iron County tackle Andy Ridolphi and Peterson cracked the “Dream Team” with Forest Park running back Graff (1,178 yards rushing, 24 TD) and return specialist Austin Snell (518 all-purpose yards), North Dickinson’s Gustafson and Kingsford defensive back Cole Tengesdahl (3 interceptions).

Prestay was named at “Dream Team” linebacker and punter.

In All-U.P. “Large School” voting by U.P. media, both Wykon tackles earned All-U.P. as Bryson Heimerl joined Ridolphi on the line. WIC defensive back Colton Pangrazzi and punter Ryan Rogers also claimed spots.

Jake Allen, who led the Flivvers in tackles this season with 100, reaped a “Large School” linebacker berth.

Iron Mountain was represented by running back James Christiansen and defensive back Craig Qualley.

In the “Small School” ranks, Norway defensive back Garrett Bonetti was selected along with North Dickinson guard Jonas Christian and running back Matt Schultz; Forest Park sophomore tackle Adam Hilberg, end Snell and freshman defensive end Daniel Nocerini, and North Central running back Josh Granquist, end Andy Estrada, defensive end Travis Vincent and defensive back Rob Granquist.

Seven area players garnered at least two votes and special mention – Kingsford tackle Jake Coughlin; North Central defensive lineman Zach Ryan; Norway running back Jordan Neumann; North Dickinson defensive lineman Jordan Bosma and defensive back-kicker Logan O’Neil, and Forest Park defensive back Connor Kezerle and center Brett Smithson.

Honorable mention went to North Dickinson running back Tim Hruska and end Justin Clark.

Players with athletic code violations are not eligible for UPSSA honors.

In a business item, WIKB Radio of Iron County – represented by Troy Margoni – was accepted back into the UPSSA.

Pick up an issue of this weekend’s Daily News for a full listing of the 2013 All-U.P. Football selections.