Take to the road: 3 area high school football teams making long trips to open MHSAA playoffs

Munising’s Anthony Mattson, right, tries to keep hold of the ball while Westwood defender Ethan Burke tries to take him down in their game played at the Patriots’ field on Aug. 25. Both teams have made the MHSAA playoffs, Westwood in Division 7 and the Mustangs in Division 8, and will be on the road in the Lower Peninsula this weekend. (Journal file photo by Rachel Oakley)

Upper Peninsula playoff schedule

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11-player district and 8-player regional first-round matchups. Game times will be determined later today. Teams listed with records and playoff points:

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11 PLAYER

Division 4

Region 1, District 1 — Bay City John Glenn (5-4, 55.444) at Escanaba (7-2, 77.639); Flint Powers Catholic (5-4, 59.222) at Alma (7-2, 72.444)

Division 5

Region 1, District 1 — Gladstone (7-2, 59.000) at Kingsford (7-1, 83.889); Hancock (7-2, 61.444) at Menominee (6-3, 65.194)

Division 6

Region 1, District 1 — Calumet (6-3, 58.333) at Traverse City St Francis (8-1, 86.000); Maple City Glen Lake (6-2, 52.556) at Boyne City (9-0, 90.667)

Division 7

Region 1, District 1 — Westwood (8-1, 59.778) at Elk Rapids (7-2, 65.667); McBain (7-2, 58.111) at Lake City (9-0, 87.111)

Division 8

Region 1, District 1 — Bark River-Harris (5-4, 43.361) at Norway (8-1) 62.847; Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-4, 35.486) at West Iron County (8-1, 73.667)

Region 1, District 2 — Munising (4-4, 32.181) at Gaylord St. Mary (9-0, 77.333); Newberry (6-2, 49.486) at Frankfort (6-2, 49.819)

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EIGHT PLAYER

Division 1

Region 1 — Ontonagon (5-3, 35.958) at Stephenson (7-2, 47.847); Rudyard (7-2, 46.000) at Cedarville (7-2, 46.000)

Division 2

Region 1 — Engadine (7-2, 46.000) at Rapid River (7-2, 50.181); North Central (6-2, 46.458) at Forest Park (6-2, 47.000)

Region 2 — Atlanta (5-4, 28.889) at Pickford (9-0, 64.000); Bellaire (5-4, 29.556) at Onekama (8-1, 58.667)

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MARQUETTE — Westwood head football coach Scott Syrjala had to be thankful that the Selection Sunday Show on Fox Sports Detroit-Plus detailing the MHSAA playoff pairings was anticlimactic.

But Munising’s Jeff Seaberg was in no position to feel that way, especially since he couldn’t even watch TV Sunday night.

The Mustangs had to wait to see if their names would be called as a “wild card” team on the show after all the teams with 5-3, 6-3 and better records grabbed their spots first.

Seaberg wasn’t near a TV during the show as he was driving downstate as part of his job as a Michigan State Police trooper.

“I didn’t see the show, but I got a lot of messages, so I knew we were in,” he said by phone at a stop on his trip. “Actually, I kind of thought we would get in after figuring the points, but when you don’t know for sure when you’re on the bubble, it’s still nice when you actually hear it.”

Syrjala had no such worries, not after he led the Patriots to their best record in school history of 8-1. The NICE Community Schools high school has been around just about as long as the MHSAA playoffs, each dating back to the mid-1970s.

“We were 7-2 in my junior year and made the playoffs before we lost to Kingsford,” the third-year head coach said about a season that happened in the long-ago 20th century, specifically 1992.

That was Westwood’s first appearance in the playoffs and the Patriots have only been back five times since, most recently in Syrjala’s first year as coach in 2015.

“It’s been quite an historic year for us,” he said. “1992 was the last time we beat Iron Mountain, and it had been five or six years (six years actually) since we’ve beaten Negaunee.”

Westwood, Munising and the area’s third playoff entrant, Newberry, will all be on the road for games in the Lower Peninsula on Friday night or Saturday afternoon.

Interestingly, these three Upper Peninsula schools will be playing teams from each of the three divisions of the Northern Michigan Football Conference.

Official times were to be decided today, though Syrjala indicated it was all but decided that his Patriots would be playing on Saturday at Elk Rapids (7-2) in Division 7. The Elks are members of the NMFC’s Legends Division.

The other two area teams would meet in a second-round Division 8 district finals game if each can advance this weekend.

Munising (4-4) plays at Gaylord St. Mary (9-0), champions of the Legacy Division, which includes St. Ignace. Newberry (6-2) goes to Frankfort (6-2), which is in the Leaders Division.

Newberry will also become a member of the Legacy Division next year with the Mid-Eastern Football Conference now broken up.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.