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Marquette quarterback Austin Ridl, left, gets hit by Sault Ste. Maries Vinicio Febles while throwing a pass in the first quarter of their game played in Marquette on September 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“It was a lot of fun working with the guys I’ve played against my whole career.” — Austin Ridl, former quarterback at Marquette Senior High School,

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MARQUETTE — The Upper Peninsula’s top senior football talent will face off again in the 15th UP Football All-Star Game on Saturday at the Superior Dome in Marquette.

As part of their week-long preparation for the game, the players attended media day in the dome on Tuesday night. Team photos were taken of both teams and each player received an individual photo. It involved every school that got a picture of their representatives, and Marquette County didn’t disappoint.

The Marquette Redmen have nine players attending Saturday’s game and are almost split in half between the black and red teams. Owen Beauchamp, Chris Ricker, Alex Schlemm and Trevor Simon wear black while Justin Jurmu, Wyatt Kuhlman, Dustin Lohfink and Austin Ridl wear red.

Westwood running back Zach Carlson searches for daylight through a hole created by his blockers during an MHSAA Division 7 playoff game November 13 against Traverse City St. Francis at Thirlby Field in Traverse City. Two blockers shown are Jerzee Karki, front bottom, and Zach Beckman, far left. (Photo: Traverse City Record-Eagle by James Cook)

This game not only brings the best players in the UP together on the same pitch, but also gives these players from different schools and backgrounds a chance to get to know each other in a way they wouldn’t have during the season.

There are many reasons this week is exciting for these fresh high school seniors, but for some it’s clear that it’s more than they thought.

“It’s been really fun so far” Said Ridel. “I didn’t expect it to be so much fun, it was a lot of fun working with the guys I’ve played my entire career.”

Westwood tied with Menominee for the second most representatives with seven each. In an interesting twist, all seven Patriots are on the black team under their coach Scott Syrjala and former Ishpeming coaches George Niemi and Jeff Olson. Under now-retiring coach Joe Noha, all seven Maroons are with him on the red team.

The seven Westwood players are Zach Beckman, Marcus Boase, Zach Carlson, Gavin Dawson, Victavian Hanson, Spencer Harvala and Luke Olson. Hanson had come to Westwood from Ishpeming. Not knowing how he would be received, the now-defunct group took him in and are playing together one last time after a historic season.

Marquette quarterback Austin Ridl, front, takes a shot with the shotgun in the third quarter as running back Desmond Mullen lines up alongside him in a game against Clare October 1 at William R. Hart Stadium in Marquette. (Photo courtesy of Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“It’s a tight group” said Hanson. “I’ve moved from Ishpeming and wasn’t really a part of the group (when I arrived). Now it’s me and they’re great people and good friends. It was a great opportunity to hang out with my friends and a great opportunity to get into the All Star Game.”

Negaunee has Bode Bonovetz and Brenten Belanger involved, while Ishpeming’s Dawson Delongchamp and Gwinn’s Carl Peterson are the sole representatives of their schools.

Another thing about the All-Star game that makes it so unique is that players from the same high school can compete against each other. Marquette had his nine players on separate teams, but Negaunee will be leaving “Mano a Mano” with Bonovetz on red and Belanger on black.

Of course, both miners choose their respective team for victory, but they are also proud to be able to represent their school.

“It’s just such an honor to be here with Negaunee, to represent the team, the school, the city and to do our best.” said Bonovetz. “I’m excited because hopefully I can beat him.”

“It’s a great opportunity to play with all these guys and represent Negaunee.” said Belanger. “It will be different, hopefully I’ll see him on the pitch too.”

Local talent will be immense at the Superior Dome at 1 p.m. Saturday as Marquette County will have its fair share of outstanding players.

Travis Nelson can be reached via email at [email protected] Network.

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