MARQUETTE - There is one trophy for the winning team in Saturday's U.P. All-Star Game.
Though the physical tokens for participating in the Superior Dome are limited, the memories for the dozen Copper Country players that have participated in All-Star Week are unlimited.
"My favorite part was getting back in those pads, hitting people, just like old times back in high school. I was always one of the most physical people and I love playing against the other guys that can shape up to me," LL-H's Chuck Heckel said.
Assistant coach Bob Madigan of Norway addresses West team players at the end of a practice inside the Superior Dome in Marquette for Saturday’s U.P. All-Star Football game. Twelve local players will participate in the sixth annual game. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
Six local programs are represented, by graduated players who spent a lot of time lining up against each other during their prep careers.
"I think my favorite part has been lining up on the same side as all those guys I played against in high school. I was always going against them, getting all in their face and everything, getting rowdy with them, but they're actually pretty cool guys when you get on their team and play with them," Hancock's Sean Patchin said.
L'Anse went the farthest of any local team last season and has several players participating: Keith Denomie, Ryan LaBerge, Jonny Magaraggia, Brandon Scroggs and Jimmy Veker. Dillion Huckstaedt of Baraga is also here from Baraga County.
Patchin is Hancock's rep, Paul Torola and Jake Pieti came from Calumet and Heckel and Konrad Klein were selected from Lake Linden-Hubbell. Tony Soumis of Ontonagon represents Ontonagon County.
All are on the West team, which includes players from Menominee, Dickinson, Iron and Gogebic counties as well.
The players have been living and practicing at Northern Michigan University all week in advance of Saturday's 3 p.m. kickoff. It's been more than half a year since any of them have been between the lines, but by Thursday, players were up to full speed. Pieti even had a little blood on his practice jersey.
"The first day was slow for sure, but the second practice, second day it finally started coming around again," he said.
The event is not just a swan song for the Class of 2014, but for retiring Forest Park coaching legend Bill Santilli, whose bright red hat stood out in the fray as he directed several players who had tried to get the better of his Trojan juggernaut over the recent years.
"I have a huge amount for (Santilli). He's done a great job coaching. He's got a good athletic program going on ... It's been a huge honor to have him coach me," Heckel said.
The only local on this year's West coaching staff is Lake Linden-Hubbell assistant Ken Klein, Konrad's father, which gives the pair memories even the other players won't be able to enjoy.
"It's been great. He's really been the biggest role model of my life and the fact that he's down here coaching, it's a great moment to be around with him. I couldn't think of anything else that I'd want more than this moment right here, sharing this football memory with him. It'll last forever," Konrad said.