MARQUETTE - Even with 5-4 Negaunee left out of the party, Marquette and Alger counties will be well represented in the MHSAA high school football playoffs with five teams participating this weekend.
Only two of them will play in front of their home fans, though it's likely the other three will entice their supporters to make road trips near and far.
It'll be near for 6-2 Westwood, which only has a couple of miles to travel to reach the Ishpeming playgrounds to face the 7-1 Hematites at 7 p.m. Friday in a Division 7 game.
But far it will be for fans of 7-2 Marquette as the Redmen travel 400 miles south to face 7-2 Fenton in southern Genessee County, most likely on Saturday afternoon.
"It's what a lot of U.P. teams have done over the years," MSHS coach Dave L'Huillier said about his team's long road trip. "We're not concerned about that. We'll just prepare to the best of our ability to beat Fenton."
Marquette moved up to Division 2 this season, something that didn't surprise the coach.
"We projected a few weeks ago that we'd be in Division 2," he said. "From what I understand, we're the smallest team (by enrollment). We're listed as having 1,131 students and there's a team from around Grand Rapids with 1,130 that's in Division 3."
His views were echoed by other coaches in the playoffs.
"You play who you draw," Ishpeming coach Jeff Olson said, while Westwood's Jon Beckman stated, "We'll play whoever they tell us to."
The other area teams in the playoffs will most likely play at 1 p.m. Saturday. One is 6-3 Munising, which travels to 9-0 St. Ignace in Division 8, while 7-2 Superior Central hosts 2-7 Mid Peninsula in an eight-man playoff game.
"We're just excited to be there," said coach Jeff Seaberg of Munising, which is making its first postseason appearance since 1990.
"Unlike a lot of 11-man teams, we know the teams we're going to play, since there's so few of us," SC coach Chris Messano said.
The eight-man playoffs include 16 of the 21 eligible schools from the state, allowing a number of teams with losing records to participate.
On the other hand, the vast majority of the 256 teams in the 11-man football playoffs have at least six wins, with a count of playoff teams showing 20 schools at 5-4 filling out the field. None made it at 4-4, also a record eligible for the postseason.
Along with seeding teams in each division, the old playoff point system is used to determine which 5-4 and 4-4 teams get in. This year, five schools each from Classes A, B, C and D were selected.
Negaunee was ninth in points among 19 Class C teams at 5-4, according to a filtered listing on the Michigan High School Athletic Association's website on Sunday evening. No Class C team was 4-4.
The lowest Class C team to get in, Merrill, was at 41.667 points, while the Miners were at 38.472 points.
Varying amounts of points are awarded for beating teams based on their class, along with the number of opponents' wins.
Schools generally confirm their first-round game times today or Tuesday.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.