ESCANABA - There was intense competition to be named the Upper Peninsula's best high school football coaches this season, at least according to voting conducted by the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
The group needed two ballots to determine that Chris Hofer would be named Large School Coach of the Year over Menominee's Joe Noha and Negaunee's Paul Jacobson.
There was also a three-way split in the voting that determined Joe Reddinger of North Dickinson would get the Small School nod.
Among the Large Schools, the long-time Flivvers coach tied Noha 8-8 while Jacobson got two votes in the initial balloting, then with only the top two vote getters in the second round, Hofer prevailed 10-8.
Hofer has coached Kingsford since 1987 and has a 216-70 record and one losing season in that time. The Flivvers also won a state title in 1993 and were runners-up three other times.
This season, Kingsford went a perfect 5-0 in the Great Northern Conference, including a narrow 14-13 win over Menominee in the middle of the season, and will make its 12th playoff appearance in the past 13 years.
U.P. Coaches of the Year
Chris Hofer, Kingsford
Joe Reddinger, N. Dickinson
Noha is still in the midst of his first year with the Maroons after taking over for Hofer's father, 43-year Menominee coach Ken Hofer.
Noha, who had been an assistant under Ken Hofer, was credited for taking a team with just one returning starter from both offense and defense and adjusting the Maroons' long-time single-wing offense to better suit his team's strengths.
He also earned plaudits for sticking with the coaching job despite being laid off from his high school teaching job in the district.
Jacobson led Negaunee to an 8-1 record, an undefeated championship in the Mid-Peninsula Conference and the Miners' 14th appearance in the state playoffs in the past 16 years.
His team turned back preseason favorite Ishpeming 20-8 on Oct. 5 to effectively seal its conference title.
In the Small School voting, Reddinger guided ND to an 8-0 record, a Mid-Eastern Football Conference title and state playoff berth.
He earned 10 votes from the UPSSA panel, while five votes went to Mark Mazzon of the new playoff-bound Gogebic Miners - a conglomeration of Bessemer, Wakefield and Marenisco programs that went 6-2 and won the Great Western Conference.
Three votes were earned by Scott Barr of Cedarville's eight-player program after the Trojans went 9-0 and are considered the No. 1 team in the state by playoff points in this relatively new brand of football in Michigan.
Also under consideration in this category was Marty Spencer of St. Ignace, who guided the Saints to a 9-0 mark and reached the 100-win milestone in his 16th year. The Ski Valley North Conference champs surrendered just 28 points the entire regular season while scoring a whopping 367, finishing the regular season with a 14-10 win over Division 4 playoff-bound Cheboygan.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is email@example.com.