West PAC to add three football teams in 2018, Newberry to join NMFL

Newberry's Jeff Rahilly, center, uses both hands to cover up the football as he runs for a gain with St. Ignace's Lukas Riordan (55) in pursuit during an MHSAA Division 8 predistrict game at St. Ignace on Friday night, Oct. 29, 2015. (Sault Evening News photo by Rob Roos)

By BURT ANGELI

Iron Mountain Daily News

IRON MOUNTAIN — The Western Peninsula Athletic Conference will have additional football teams in 2018.

West PAC officials meeting Wednesday in Watersmeet approved Norway, Bark River-Harris and Lake Linden-Hubbell of the Mid-Eastern Football Conference joining the league for football in a year.

However, Munising’s bid was voted down. Travel was cited as the primary concern.

“Nobody really wanted to leave Munising out,” said West Iron County principal, athletic director and head football coach Mike Berutti. “You feel bad but some of these schools had three-hour (one-way trips to Munising).”

West PAC 11-player football for 2018 will consist of big- and small-school divisions.

West Iron County, Norway, Hurley (Wisconsin), Bark River-Harris, Lake Linden-Hubbell and L’Anse will comprise the six small schools; Calumet, Houghton, Hancock, Gogebic and Northland Pines (Eagle River, Wis.) are the five in the big.

Gogebic — originally a co-operative team of Bessemer and Wakefield-Marenisco — had already left the Mid-Eastern Conference after last season. Ironwood is now a part of that co-op.

Berutti hopes a 2018 West PAC football schedule will be assembled by next week. West PAC teams will also play crossover games between the divisions.

“It won’t be easy (creating a schedule),” said Berutti, noting Iron Mountain will remain a nonconference opponent for the Wykons. “We’ll put together a schedule and see how it goes from there.”

The Mid-Eastern league of Norway, Newberry, BR-H, LL-H and Munising is set to dissolve after this fall. Norway is a newcomer to the the league after playing in the Mid-Peninsula Conference for many years.

Even if the league kept going after 2017, it would drop to four schools with Newberry leaving for the Northern Michigan Football League in 2018.

Newberry football coach Fred Bryant told The Mining Journal that the Indians will join the Legacy Division of the NMFL with St. Ignace, Indian River Inland Lakes, Harbor Springs, Johannesburg-Lewiston, East Jordan and Gaylord St. Mary.

Newberry, according to Bryant, had applied to the NMFL a few years ago but was rejected. With fewer schools now playing 11-player football, the league was more receptive to adding another Upper Peninsula school, he said.

With only four schools left, remaining Mid-Eastern members looked for another conference.

According to Norway principal and athletic director Joe Tinti, those four first approached the Mid-Peninsula Conference. Turned down there, Tinti expressed appreciation to the West PAC for accepting the Knights.

“It’s fortunate that it worked out,” said Tinti, whose school board recently gave approval for Norway leaving the Mid-Eastern and joining the West PAC in football.

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