Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lakes flood small-school honors list

By Brandon Veale - DMG Sports Editor

ESCANABA - The Great Western Conference was as great as its name implies this season, and as a reward, GWC players were well-represented in the All-U.P. Football Teams for 2009.

The local GWC honorees, selected at the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Meeting Thursday, include a school-record tying six Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes, including Dream Team linebacker and U.P. Class D Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Sundblad (see related story).

Three Ontonagon Gladiators and a Baraga Viking also made the Class D unit.

Sundblad was one of two GWC players on the Dream Team, alongside defensive tackle Tim Martin of Forest Park.

The senior led a bumper crop from LL-H, the only team in the Upper Peninsula to go undefeated this season. The previous record was six Lakes in 1991 and 1992, with one of the 1991 selections being current LL-H coach Andy Crouch (at defensive back).

LL-H dominated defensively, allowing a U.P. best 34 points in eight games, including five shutouts. In recognition of that prowess, three Lakes linebackers were selected for the first time in school history. In addition to Sundblad, the panel selected junior linebackers Jordan Hahka (5-foot-6, 165 pounds) and Dano Goldsworthy (5-10, 175), a combination that had 202 tackles in the Lakes' eight games.

Crouch called Hahka "incredibly dedicated," and his work paid off. He recorded 87 tackles, with great performances in the Lakes' two biggest regular season games: 13 vs. Forest Park and 12 at home against Hurley, Wis. Hahka earned honorable mention at the position as a sophomore.

Goldsworthy had 52 tackles, and Crouch called him "an unbelievable hitter - ask our opponents."

In addition to the linebacking corps, junior defensive back Brett Gervais earned special mention.

On the other side of the ball, the Lakes had plenty of holes through which to run for big gains. Key to that effort were a pair of All-U.P. linemen, senior center Jake Killian and junior guard Stefan Liimatainen.

Both were picked for the All-Great Western Conference team, with Killian netting lineman of the year honors.

LL-H's strong line gave Travis Ambuehl a chance to shine at end, and the senior receiver took it, earning All-U.P. honors. Ambuehl, named the GWC's top receiver, had 19 catches for 389 yards and eight touchdowns on a team that threw only 42 passes all season. His hands were key in some of the Lakes' biggest wins, including a game-winning touchdown catch against Hurley and two TD catches against Forest Park.

Ontonagon travels to meet the Lakes today at Warner Field in a Division 8 pre-district game, and some of the Gladiators that were instrumental in the school's first playoff berth since 1996 were singled out for praise.

Senior running back Mike Schmaus racked up 1,182 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on 43 carries. In coach Dave Linczeski's single-wing offense, Schmaus was a weapon with his arm as well, throwing for 378 yards and two scores.

Winner of multiple sprints at the Division 3 U.P. Track and Field Finals in May, Schmaus's blazing speed was deadly to any team that let him get the corner.

One of Schmaus's passing targets was Cameron Menigoz, who earned All-U.P. honors with 11 catches for 204 yards, but most importantly, a season full of key blocks to spring Schmaus and the rest of the Gladiator backfield.

Ontonagon's Tyler Roberts was the only sophomore All-U.P. selection this season, recording a team-leading 63 tackles at linebacker.

Baraga is represented by senior defensive lineman Matt Velmer. The two-year team captain recorded 50 tackles (10 solo), four sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
The Daily Mining Gazette
P.O. Box 368, Houghton, MI 49931

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