MARQUETTE, MI – Day 1 of the All-Star week is in the books. What a day! All of the players checked in and each team completed two practices. Both teams got to practice once in the Dome, and for many, it was the first time being in the Dome and playing on the turf. The coaches talked early and often about making the most of their opportunities and taking advantage of the time here to make new friends.
However, even with football in the front of everyone’s mind again, the highlight of the day was the food drive which benefitted the Beacon House food pantry. Over 900 pounds of food was collected and donated by the players, which was greatly appreciated by the Beacon House.
The Beacon House provides housing for people who have loved ones receiving medical care in the Marquette area. It is an organization that survives on donations from the U.P. community. Steve Mariucci and Tom Izzo, both Iron Mountain natives, also support the Beacon House through their celebrity golf outing each year. “Thank you to the continued generosity of the All-Star Game each year. This food stocked our pantry, and will keep us full for many months.”
Upon arriving, the players did not have much chance to relax. After getting settled into their rooms and having a quick lunch, there was a brief team meeting with all participants. Once the general expectations were given, the group split up and each team began their practices.
North head coach Paul Jacobson of Negaunee, brought Kevin Jacobson, Jeff Niemi and Dan Waterman from his own staff with him to assist. Jacobson has coached twice before in the All-Star Game. The other North coaches are Jeff Olson and Scott Syrjala from Ishpeming (both veteran coaches of the All-Star Game). The North team started with a classroom meeting with the players, then got into practice. The coaches met regularly before and after practice to discuss the practice outcomes and where players could be moved to best suit their strengths.
The first practice is always about getting the players into the positions where they can benefit the team best. The all-star game provides many opportunities for players to get experience in different positions they have not tried before, simply because of the size of their school’s team. With so many great players all on the same team, the coaches are able to move players around to accentuate their strengths, so it is fun to watch the players thrive at multiple positions.
South head coach Brad Grayvold of Norway is also no stranger to the All-Star Game, having coached in the game twice before. With Grayvold are Forest Park head coach Dave Graff and Bill Santilli (long-time and now retired head coach of Forest Park), who bring with them a wealth of experience and success from the Trojans, who are a perennial state powerhouse and both veteran All-Star coaches. The other South coaches are Mike Christian of North Dickinson (fourth time coaching in the All-Star Game) and his assistant for the Nordics, Eric Schemmel, and Matt Johnson, Rudyard head coach (first time coaching in the All-Star Game).
The South team started their time together with a motivational speech from Dr. Mark Schinderle, an eye doctor from Norway. Schinderle made the hour and a half drive from Norway just to talk with the South players before they kicked off their first practice. Coach Grayvold said he asked Schinederle if he could make the trip to Marquette, and there was no hesitation whatsoever. “He agreed to do it without any second thoughts. He has been an assistant coach and youth advisor in Norway, and I thought he would give the players a great talk before we got started with practice. He had an excellent message.” Schinderle talked to the team about the importance of representing themselves, their communities, families and schools while at the All-Star Game, and also spoke as to why it is so important to play the game hard and give it your best every time out on the field.
The South team also was evaluating the talents of each player as they worked through the drills and formations. The players started to immediately develop some chemistry with each repetition and play. It was easy to see why these players were selected as the best in the U.P., because it did not take them long to settle in to a practice routine and begin looking like a football team. Time was spent both individually in position groups, as well as in a larger team formation working full offense vs full defense.
It is hard to tell at this point which team has an advantage. Both teams are working hard to figure out their personnel and where each player can help the team in the best way. We will have to see how the week progresses, but both teams look to be very focused on their own game plans. Each team has players with unique strengths, and the coaches are developing ways to get the most out of every player.
Other All-Star Updates: Econo Foods and Super One groceries also donated power bars, sports drinks and snacks for all of the players and coaches, which will be given out as the week progresses. With the players having been away from football for quite some time, they will need the extra nutrition between meals to keep their energy peaking.
Day 2 (Tuesday) will see everyone settle in to a regular routine of two practices, along with Media Day in the evening. Team and individual pictures will be taken and players will be available for interviews to any attending media. Players and coaches will available for interviews at 6:45PM at the Dome.