Saturday, October 31, 2009

Croze, Linczeski top coaches

ESCANABA - Three special seasons netted a slew of special awards from the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association at its annual meeting Thursday.

Calumet and Lake Linden-Hubbell capped sterling seasons with Team of the Year honors in Class C and D, respectively.

In Coach of the Year balloting, UPSSA voters honored Calumet's John Croze for leading an established program to new heights, while Ontonagon's Dave Linczeski earned recognition for turning a proud program in the winning direction again.

And in player awards, a tenacious defender on a dominant team, Brandon Sundblad of LL-H, earned Class D Defensive Player of the Year selection.

Calumet's 8-1 regular season was among the best in school history and its best record since 1997. The Copper Kings held complete control of the WestPAC this year, with their closest game being a 45-20 win at Stephenson in Week 1. Against local opponents, Calumet was completely dominant, outscoring the other 3 local WestPAC teams 166-6.

Croze, an All-U.P. selection for Ishpeming at end in 1985, earned Coach of the Year for the first time in his career. The award last crossed the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in 1996, when Croze's predecessor, Scott Boddy, was picked.

Croze has a 60-38 record in 10 seasons as the Copper Kings head coach, which includes playoff appearances in the last six consecutive seasons.

The Gladiators improved from 1-8 in 2008 to 6-3 this year after Linczeski took over and installed a single-wing offense like the one he played at Menominee High School. The five-game improvement was the most in the U.P. this season and was enough for the school's first playoff berth since 1996.

Sundblad led an elite LL-H defense that allowed only 34 points in eight games, shut out five opponents and did not allow any team more than 14 points.

He recorded 67 tackles this season and returned an interception for a touchdown. A starter for three-and-a-half years, he was named Great Western Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior joins Michael Goldsworthy (2007) and Tom Miller (1998) as recent selections for the award from Lake Linden.

Sundblad, an honorable mention selection in 2008, is the fourth Lake to make the Dream Team in the last decade, including Goldsworthy (2007), Casey DeMars (2004-05) and Corey Steinhoff (2004) and is the fourth Dream Team linebacker in school history.

All four Player of the Year awards were unanimously picked for the first time in recent memory.

The Class A-B-C Offensive Player of the Year was Mitch VanEffen of Escanaba, a dynamic athlete who holds school records for career receiving TDs, career TDs, receiving yards in a season, career total yards and TD catches in a season. The Class D Offensive Player of the Year award went to two-time Dream Team running back Mike Miller of North Dickinson.

The Class A-B-C Defensive Player of the Year went to Winston Larson of Kingsford, the heart of one of the U.P.'s best defenses, which has not allowed double digits since Week 3. The Flivvers also earned Team of the Year honors in Class A-B.
The Daily Mining Gazette
P.O. Box 368, Houghton, MI 49931

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