MARQUETTE - Four North Central Jets in addition to Dream Team and Small School Defensive Player of the Year selection Eric Prestay, were selected to the All-U.P. Small School Team, Thursday at the 65th Annual UPSSA Football Meeting; giving the Jets the greatest representation of any Class D/8-Man school.
Josh Granquist was selected at running back, Rob Granquist at defensive back, Andrew Estrada at offensive end and Travis Vincent at defensive end.
Junior Rob Granquist had an extraordinary season at quarterback, completing 52.7 percent of his passes (98-for-186) for 1,514 yards, with 20 touchdowns and three interceptions. However, he was narrowly edged by Jake Pearson of Rapid River for the quarterback slot in a heavily contested vote.
Granquist was placed on the team at defensive back where he was a worthy selection with 47 tackles, five interceptions, eight defended passes, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Josh Granquist didn't run the ball a ton in a pass-first Jets offense, but when his number was called, he delivered. Granquist rushed for 795 yards with nine touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 112 yards. As a kick returner he ran back a punt and a kickoff return for touchdowns during the season.
Andrew Estrada was one of at least three North Central receivers that saw many balls thrown his way during the season from Rob Granquist, but the 6-foot, 165 senior may have been the most sure-handed of the bunch. He caught 28 passes for 522 yards (18.6 YPC avg.) and eight touchdowns, to lead the Jets.
Travis Vincent was also a standout receiver at tight end, exhibiting strength and an outstanding vertical leap, but he was most effective at defensive end, where he terrorized opposing quarterbacks with six sacks and two interceptions, in addition to three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 66 tackles (13 for loss).
Also making the All-U.P. Team was Kyle Kleiman of Bark River-Harris. Kleiman showed talent at receiver when he was thrown to by quarterback Jorden Sodergren, catching 17 passes, including one in double coverage against West Iron County for a touchdown. Kleiman stood out on defense however, where he averaged six tackles a game and had three sacks, four fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Kleiman's coach Al Stenberg said last week "Kyle did a good job keeping kids leveled throughout an up and down rollercoaster year. I would 100 percent endorse him."
Hayden Hardwick of Rapid River is a repeat selection on the All-U.P. team after also being selected as a junior. The 6-foot-1, 240 pound senior is a three-year starter on the offensive line for the Rockets, who racked up nearly 3,000 rushing yards this season. Hardwick helped pave the way for many of Pearson's big runs in the Rockets zone blocking scheme.
In the Large School division, Cole Potvin of Manistique along with two Escanaba Eskymos and two Gladstone Braves were selected to the All-U.P. Team.
Potvin, a Big Bay de Noc co-op player for the Emeralds was the leading receiver in the Mid-Peninsula conference, catching 46 passes from quarterback Tyler Kangas. Potvin amassed 623 yards and seven touchdowns. Head coach Todd Kangas said, "Cole has good speed, good size and is a reliable receiver."
Travis Heller of Escanaba had more of a penchant to throw the ball then his predecessors at Escanba did, but he still ran the ball plenty as well. Heller completed 50 percent of his passes (62-for-123) for 1,211 yards and 10 touchdowns and also rushed for 714 yards and six touchdowns.
Also an All-State wrestler, the 5-foot-11, 175 pound Heller was also a standout linebacker, with 85 tackles (50 solo, 30 for loss), five sacks and two defended passes.
Escanaba's Steve Wood was selected to the team at defensive end where he came up with seven quarterback sacks during the season and 36 tackles.
Gladstone's Riley Ballard suffered a season ending injury in the second half of the season, but was a key component to Gladstone's offense early in the season, scoring eight of the team's first nine touchdowns, including a kick return for a touchdown. He was selected to the All-U.P. Team at return specialist.
Head coach Cody Kangas said of Ballard, "He's a do it all guy. He played at back, receiver and kick returner. He's a great return man and if I was an opposing coach I wouldn't kick to him. He has great vision."
Fellow Braves teammate Chris Ritchie was selected at defensive tackle after carrying the defense all season. The 6-foot-1, 210 pound Ritchie overcame multiple injuries during the season including a neck injury and bruised ribs but never sat out a game.
"Chris had the most heart on the team," said Kangas last week. "He's a tough kid and it was his senior year. He didn't want to sit out. He can play anywhere on the defensive side, no matter where you put him. He's versatile."