Mustangs playing musical chairs

Munising may be left without football conference in 2018

Munising’s Alec Blank, right, knocks away the only pass attempt of the game by West Iron County that was intended for the Wykons' AJ Wesinicht, left, in the season opener at Nelson Field in Iron River on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. The Wykons won 21-8. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Burt Angeli)

Munising may be left without football conference in 2018

MUNISING — It looks something like the game of musical chairs with Munising the school left without a good place to sit for the time being.

Members of the Mid-Eastern Football Conference — there will be five including the Mustangs this fall — were recently accepted into other leagues for 2018 as the league was shrinking away.

Except for one — Munising.

While Newberry headed south into the Legacy Division of the mostly Lower Peninsula-based Northern Michigan Football Conference, the other remaining MEFC members applied for membership in the Copper Country-based West PAC.

And again, all were accepted — except for Munising.

“We’re disappointed, though the decision was understandable,” MHS athletic director Deejay Paquette said. “There were concerns with travel.

“I respect their decision. Every school has got to do what’s best for them.”

All this shuffling around only impacts football — in nearly every other sport, Munising is well entrenched in the Skyline Central Conference with nine other schools in Alger, Delta, Menominee, Dickinson and Iron counties.

The football problem is due much to Skyline schools peeling off to play 8-player football.

“There’s only three Class D schools left in the Upper Peninsula playing 11-man — Lake Linden(-Hubbell), Bark River(-Harris) and us,” Paquette said. “We’ve lost six of our opponents the past few years going to 8-man.”

Munising, which this fall will be back in Class D after having been moved up to Class C for a couple years, would’ve been the eastern outlier in a West PAC football conference that will now include 11 schools split into big- and small-school divisions.

Bark River-Harris, straddling Menominee and Delta counties, will be the furthest east in a league that includes two schools near Ironwood — the Ironwood-Bessemer-Wakefield-Marenisco co-op called the Gogebic Miners and Ironwood’s cross-border neighbor of Hurley, Wisconsin.

There’s also West Iron County, Norway and Northland Pines of Eagle River, Wisconsin, all in the general Iron Mountain-Iron River area; L’Anse in Baraga County; and Calumet, Houghton, Hancock and Lake Linden-Hubbell in Houghton County.

Paquette said things are stable for the Mustangs this fall, the last of the MEFC, with an open date in Week 8, the second-to-last week of the season.

“But there’s definitely a concern for 2018,” Paquette said. “Right now we only have three games on our schedule — Westwood, Manistique and Newberry.”

He said he’s approaching some of the nearer schools of similar size — small Class C and large Class D — like Ishpeming and Gwinn.

And he’s hoping to keep a four-team MEFC going past 2017 with LL-H, Norway and Bark River-Harris. The other three schools would have dual membership with the West PAC.

“That would probably be the best-case scenario for us,” Paquette said.

Asked about the possibility of going to 8-player football, the Mustangs’ AD said that isn’t on the horizon.

“With 8-man, time will tell,” Paquette said. “But our numbers are strong right now. We’re good in 11-man.”

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

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