I am told that it snowed last week. I didn't see it, but I refuse to believe it.
I am also told that all three of the Copper Country's football playoff teams lost in the first round last weekend. I didn't see it, as all three were on the road, but I'm willing to believe the word of the reporters who covered the games.
The high school football season isn't really all that long - nine weeks in Michigan, but it feels longer simply because of the drastic change.
High school basketball goes more than three months, but up here, it starts and ends with snow on the ground, and the odds of poor roads on the way home are roughly the same for Game 1 as they are for Game 20.
High school football starts in, essentially, the summer. I make a point of covering at least one game a year in shorts. However, this is the first year I've lived in Houghton in which snow (or its close relative, graupel) did not fall during a game I covered.
It wasn't a star-studded season in this part of the U.P., but I was pleasantly surprised with how the voting went for the All-U.P. football teams announced Saturday.
Red Line Picks
Minnesota State at
Good times in Houghton: The snow isn't sticking yet and the Huskies are 5-2-1. No snow is in the forecast for the next few days and there's a sunny outlook on the ice, too. Minnesota State had last week off, which is just more time to think about a 10-2 loss at Denver in its last game. The Mavericks played without seven injured players against Denver and lost an eighth in the 10-2 game. The Mavs will be healthier in Houghton, but better? That's not so sure. Even before the injury, they were picked to finish last in the WCHA. This is a series that Tech should sweep.
The Verdict: Tech sweep 4-2, 5-2
North Dakota at Minnesota
The Gophers remained perfect in the WCHA with a pair of wins at Alaska-Anchorage, while North Dakota got shutout by a freshman goaltender at home against St. Cloud before coming back to earn the series split. Kent Patterson is red-hot in the Gopher net, posting all four of his career shutouts in the first eight games of this season. The Sioux goaltending has been remarkably cold, as Brad Eidsness and Aaron Dell currently have a combined .854 save percentage. The last line of defense is my last line of proof that the Gophers will sweep.
The Verdict: UMn sweep 5-3, 2-1
Wisconsin at St. Cloud State
Wisconsin has crept up into the top half of the WCHA standings again with a respectable home split against Nebraska-Omaha, while St. Cloud still has several games in hand (only two of their first eight have been league contests). The Badgers visit the Other Huskies this weekend. Ryan Faragher was the star of the weekend for SCSU, stopping 44 shots in a shutout of North Dakota Friday night. A late add in place of injured starter Mike Lee, Faragher earned WCHA Rookie of the Week honors for his work. However, against a Badger team averaging 3.5 goals per game thus far, the loss of Lee may catch up with SCSU.
The Verdict: UW sweep 6-4, 5-4
Colorado College at
CC, still perfect on the season at 4-0, faces its biggest test thus far this weekend against a tough UNO squad. The Mavs aren't off to quite as fast of a start, but Terry Broadhurst will be a factor this weekend. The junior forward scored three times in two games last weekend against the Badgers and already has seven goals and four assists on the season. He and UNO will knock the Tigers from the ranks of unbeatens, but not take all the points.
The Verdict: UNO 5-4 Friday, CC 4-2 Saturday
Minnesota-Duluth at Denver
Marquee series of the weekend, as the Pioneers try to bounce back from their disappointing weekend in Houghton by facing the defending champs. UMD didn't stutter last weekend, sweeping Bemidji State 6-2 and 1-0. Definitely a tough call, so I'll pick the Pioneers to get back on track Friday only to lose the plot again on Saturday night.
The Verdict: DU 3-2 Friday, UMD 5-3 Saturday
Bemidji State at
Lake Superior St.
While they're in town the Beavers ought to look up hotel reservations in the Sault for two years down the road. This will be a league series some day, but until then, BSU and its 1-5 road record will have to face a LSSU team playing its best hockey in years. The Lakers are No. 11 in the nation after sweeping Miami in Oxford last weekend. The good times roll in U.P. hockey at the expense of Bemidji.
The Verdict: LSSU sweeps 4-2, 6-4
Last week: 8-3-1
For the season: 20-19-4 (51.1 percent)
As you noticed, nine local players received the honor of being named among the peninsula's best, with Ben Storm and Ben Bjorn of Calumet and Tyler Roberts of Ontonagon being selected for the 25 top players in the U.P., the all-class Dream Team.
Some folks have asked me about how things work, and though I can't reveal all of our secrets, I can explain a little how the process works.
Before our meeting, I solicit names and stats of players our local coaches think are worthy selections for the team (we are specifically instructed not to submit someone to be nominated just to receive honorable mention). I can also personally nominate a player who I believe is worthy (or withdraw the nomination of one who I think isn't), but one thing that readers may not know is that a player who has been suspended for a violation of training rules (such as a minor-in-possession) or who has missed more than half of his team's games, is ineligible.
We meet in Escanaba and vote position-by-position, first for the Dream Team, then the large-school first team, then the small-school first team. The U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association adjusted the categories this year so that, instead of Class ABC and Class D, the U.P.'s football-playing schools were divided in half by enrollment.
In the first year of the 8-man format, we decided that 8- and 11-man football were not similar enough to make an apples-to-apples comparison in voting, but as the system grows throughout the region, the accomplishments of 8-man players have proven tough to ignore. When you think about it, there are already weights attached to raw numbers anyway. A thousand rushing yards can be colored by things like competition, number of games, the offensive system a team runs. It never was cut-and-dried, so expanding the pool wasn't as difficult as it might seem.
Then comes the special awards. Many of them are actually fairly easy picks - for example, all-everything quarterback Austin Young of Escanaba for large-school offensive player of the year.
Of course, there are still three U.P. Team of the Year trophies and there's a bit of a sticking point. Up until this year, the trophies for the Team of the Year went to the best teams in Class A and B, Class C and Class D.
St. Ignace, which won the Mattson Trophy previously given to the Class D Team of the Year, is not, by definition, a Class D school (by about 10 students). However, in a 'spirit of the law' situation, the Saints, who are a Division 8 team, won the vote for the trophy, and a good argument can be made. After all, the trophy was intended to recognize the best team in the smallest classification, which the Saints were judged to be.
It's confusing, but once the current system catches on it'll make more sense.
The meeting is always a long day, and not just because Escanaba is a three-hour drive from the Copper Country. After dinner with the folks in Gwinn and leg two of the drive home, I worked on some pages for Friday's paper and collapsed at home.
Friday, I had to put together two articles, type out the list, dig up the photos and dress up the pages properly - and then go cover a game. It's a rough workload, and I let something fall through the cracks.
You got to read of the accomplishments of all our area's All-U.P. picks, but one.
Lake Linden-Hubbell defensive lineman Shane Testini was pictured with the article and included in the list for the small-school first team, but I realized after the fact that I omitted him from the article by mistake.
Testini, a two-year, two-way starter on the Lakes' line, posted 50 tackles and three sacks this season.
Hopefully the Lakes and their fans will accept my apology and congratulations on making this year's annual mea culpa column in December.
He and all the other selections will be receiving their awards soon, if they haven't already, and within a few weeks, the high school football season will be a memory, as will the fall.
However, the seasons will change, and surely as snow turns to sun turns to changing leaves, it'll be time to tee it up again soon enough.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.