Food Drive Highlights Day 1 of All-Star Week

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Marquette, MIJune 20, 2016 – 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 1200 pounds of food was collected and donated by the players, which was greatly appreciated by the Beacon House.  It is the largest amount collected since beginning the All-Star Game food drive, and is a testament to how well supported these players are in their communities.


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 players and coaches. Once the general expectations were given, the group split up and each team began their practices.


North head coach Fred Bryant of Newberry, brought Jeff Puckett from his own staff with him to assist.  Bryant has coached twice before in the All-Star Game.  The other North coaches are Andy Crouch and Doug Hodges from Lake Linden-Hubbell, Mark Leaf from L’Anse (all three veteran coaches of the All-Star Game) and Scott Erickson from Hurley, WI.  The North team started in with practice right away, running offensive plays with personnel they wanted to see.  The defense also began with defending actual plays run against them for a more “real” look to start with.  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 Matt Johnson of Rudyard is also no stranger to the All-Star Game, having coached in the game last year.  Johnson brought his assistant, Garde Kangas with him.  Other coaches on the staff include Brad Grayvold (long-time and now retired head coach of Norway), also a veteran All-Star coach, and Sam Eggleston, assistant at Superior Central, who is coaching in the All-Star Game for the first time.  The south coaches are rounded out with Todd Kangas (former Manistique head coach and veteran of the All-Star Game), and his other son, Cody Kangas, who is coaching at Forest Area, MI, which is downstate.  Having Todd Kangas and his two sons is a very special occurrence for the game that has never happened previously.  Both sons, Cody (’08) and Garde (’09) played in the All-Star Game, and Todd has coached several times, so to have all three on the same coaching staff is a very unique and special benefit to this year’s event.  A former player has never come back to coach yet, so to have two former players do it the same year is special.  Add to it the fact their dad is also coaching with them, and you have a once in a lifetime opportunity.


The South team started their time together with a short meeting in a classroom to discuss the overall objectives of the week for their team and what they expected.  After that, they spent time going through various skill drills with each group, working on footwork, speed, tackling form and route running, to name a handful.


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 mostly split up into separate offensive and defensive groups, continuing to develop chemistry and evaluate the players.


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.

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