All-U.P. — Pearson, Prestay earn top honors

MARQUETTE – Running through defenders, not necessarily around them, amassing major yardage, carrying his team by playing both sides of the ball. Senior quarterback Jake Pearson of Rapid River was the definitive MVP for the Rockets this season and the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association agreed during the 64th Annual Football Meeting held Thursday in Marquette, naming Pearson as the Small School Offensive Player of the Year.

North Central’s Eric Prestay was selected as the Small School Defensive Player of the Year by the 22 member panel.

A 6-foot-3, 220 pound quarterback with sprinter speed, Pearson was so effective this season for Rapid River that in many games he sat out the fourth quarter. Yet, Pearson still racked up an incredible 2,429 yards of total offense (1,667 rushing, 762 passing) and had 29 rushing touchdowns and nine passing touchdowns through eight games.

And after marching the offense downfield, Pearson turned right around and jumped in at linebacker on defense, where he amassed 60 tackles (18 for loss), three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two sacks.

Throughout the season, Pearson has been listed as in contention for’s inaugural Michigan High School Football Player of the Year award, and was the only Upper Peninsula player on the list. He is the first Rapid River player to win the award since Chad Parrett in 1996.

Senior Eric Prestay throughout the season was the “Heart and soul” of the Jets defense, according to coach Kevin Bellefeuil in an interview earlier in the week.

At linebacker, Prestay was in on nearly every defensive play, racking up 110 tackles (nine for loss), two sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two defended passes. He was named to the Dream Team at linebacker and at punter where he averaged 41.2 yards per punt. He is the first North Central player to win the award since Leo Gorzinski in 1990.

In the Large School division, Senior quarterback Alex Briones of Ishpeming was named Offensive Player of the Year. Briones has been the leader of an incredibly successful last two seasons. In 2012, he led Ishpeming to the DIvision 7 state title and going into the playoffs this year, the Hematites are 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state. He passed for 1,050 yards with 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions, while completing 66 percent of his passes (43-of-65).

Ryne Francour of Menominee was the Defensive Player of the Year after winning the same award on the All-Great Northern Conference team that was announced early in the week.