It's time once again to roll out the red carpet, not to shake out all the dust and pollen that collected in it during allergy season, but to enjoy a little recognition.
This is the fourth annual Vealie Awards, highlighting those which made high school sports fun to cover in the 2011-12 school year.
Once again this year, the Vealies are more of an abstract idea than a tangible reward, but my offer remains to give any and all of this year's winners a hearty handshake and an attaboy (or girl), provided they visit the Daily Mining Gazette's Houghton offices between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon on a weekday.
Team of the Year
Only one team can say they played for a full state championship this year, which makes the selection process for this one fairly simple.
I like to think it's good karma for last year's Unsung Hero Vealie several of them earned for pushing me out of a snowbank at the Houghton County Arena.
All joking aside, the Gremlins, starting with senior goalie Tony Peltier and a stalwart defense, seized their moment in the playoffs and rode it all the way down to the title game. Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett skated off with the title, but there's something to be said for being the best community team and the best in the U.P.
High Comedy Moment of the Year
Yes, I'm going to be "that guy" and give my own fake award to myself, but I had something of a rough fall. In addition to the incident on football scrimmage day last August in which, walking to the sidelines, I suddenly got caught up in a sweep play with about 12 guys going full-speed in full gear, I also had an incident during volleyball season (I believe it was at Houghton High) in which I saw a loose ball rolling in my direction. I put my foot out to have it roll up my leg to put back in the ball basket, only for it to bounce off my foot and hit me in the nose. Both incidents were caught on tape, but as far as I know, have not made it to YouTube yet.
For that, I'll award Special Achievement Vealies to Dave Linczeski (Ontonagon) and John Christianson (Houghton) for preserving what's left of my dignity.
Unsung Hero of the Year
Lake Linden-Hubbell High School metal shop class
Any traveling trophy is bound to have some miles on it, so when I got a hold of the Mattson Trophy, emblematic of the U.P.'s best Class D football team, I wasn't exactly expecting Stanley Cup levels of pristineness. However, it was a tad embarassing to deliver it to Lake Linden in roughly 10 pieces.
I gave it (and its monstrous grandfather-clock sized box) to coach Andy Crouch and he said, "We'll get it taken care of."
When I came to pick it up in November, it was in one pretty good-looking piece. So, for your craftsmanship and willingness to help out a sportswriter with no welding skills, here's an award of a different color.
Quote of the Year
Troy Kinnunen, Hancock football
I was minding my own business on a Sunday, picking up dinner, when I noticed that Troy was working at the restaurant.
I was glad to see him on his feet after a rough, physical game earlier in the weekend against Lake Linden-Hubbell.
"Did you hear about the concussion I got on Friday?" he said.
I was at that game.
I present this as Quote of the Year not to get Troy in trouble, but to applaud his forthright nature in helping out the media. If only Jim Schwartz could be this eager to assist.
Game of the Year
Calumet at Houghton volleyball - Class C
One of the things I like about volleyball is that the combatants are lined up across from each other. Not only does it make for easy photo identification, but it can create a very neat showdown narrative: (wo)mano-a-(wo)mano.
Since I've been here, every single district tournament has featured a Houghton-Calumet match, and most of them ranged from good to excellent.
This one, played on Nov. 5, was no exception. As was mentioned in the story, both teams scored exactly 105 points, but the order was what counted, as Houghton advanced with the 3-2 (25-17, 27-25, 23-25, 15-25, 15-13) victory on its home court after veering from two points away from a sweep to two points away from elimination at 13-10 down in the fifth.
Volleyball season's just a few months away, but I'm sure coach Lisa Twardzik and the Copper Kings have already forgotten about this one.
OK, that may be a lie, but I look forward to not talking about this match in Calumet for many years to come.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.