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Playoff teams have earned our support

Four Marquette County schools have made the playoffs in football, despite some of them experiencing a slow start to the season. The first round of the playoffs will get underway this weekend, with Westwood (7-2) hosting the Menominee Maroons (6-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The Patriots were one of those teams with a slow start, as they were 1-2 after a tough 14-8 home loss to Calumet on Sept. 13.

The slow start wasn’t overly surprising after Westwood lost a lot of skill-position players from the previous year.

“This goes all the way back to last November after we lost to Calumet (in the playoffs),” WHS head coach Scott Syrjala told the Journal. “I got our (then) juniors together and asked them what they wanted to do.”

He said this year took some adjustments.

“We were green,” the coach said. “And I had some of the kids in the wrong spots. We changed some things, got some into positions that would better allow them to succeed.”

But he had concerns right up until Sunday night, when state pairings were announced on television.

“I was worried that Menominee would overtake us,” Syrjala said about the Maroons’ playoff points that would determine who hosted their first-round game.

Menominee got a big boost in those points after upending previously undefeated Hopkins, a Division 5 playoff team, on Friday.

“I’m not surprised Menominee won, but I’m happy we get to host a game.”

The winner of that game takes on the winner of Negaunee (6-3) at Calumet (8-1), who will face off at 7 p.m. Friday. The Miners are making their first playoff appearance since 2016.

Negaunee was yet another team that got off to a slow start this year, opening 0-2 after a 30-6 home loss to Calumet on Sept. 6.

“I had been checking out the playoff points, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw who we’re playing,” Jacobson said. “It’s better to not be surprised when the show comes on.

“For sure, we’re in a strong district. It’s been a couple years since we’ve been in the playoffs, so hopefully we can come out and make an extended run.

“To go far, you have to be good, but you also have to be lucky.”

Unlike their playoff counterparts, the Hematites jumped out of the gate at 3-0 this season before a two-week bump in the road came against Division 6 playoff teams Westwood and Negaunee.

Ishpeming righted its ship to finish by winning out in October and come into this weekend at 7-2.

That was good enough to earn their four-team district’s No. 1 ranking and a chance to host district No. 4 Bark River-Harris (5-4). Unlike the other three Marquette County playoff teams, it ensures that with a win in the first round, the Hematites would remain at home in the district finals against the winner of Lake Linden-Hubbell (6-3) at West Iron County (7-2).

In addition, Ishpeming defeated all three of those district teams as all four are members of the Iron Division of the West PAC.

The Hematites took out LL-H 36-34 in Lake Linden on Sept. 7, shut out WIC 28-0 in Ishpeming on Oct. 11 and ran past BR-H 54-8 at the Ishpeming Playgrounds on Thursday.

Lastly, the Marquette Redmen (5-4) hit the road to face Muskegon at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“We get to play another game,” MSHS first-year head coach Eric Mason said. “You can say we’re getting to play with house money.”

It had to seem that way after Marquette stood at 2-4 following a 28-25 home loss to Alpena on Oct. 4.

“At that point, we were only concerned about winning a game,” he said. “You have to take it week to week, you can only win the next game anyway.

“The playoffs never came up until last week. I know for myself, purposely I didn’t think about the playoffs until a week ago. We were so up and down, it was getting to where I only wanted to focus on a quarter at a time.”

Despite the adversity some of these squads faced early on, they battled through it, and their hard work has paid off with a playoff berth. Regardless of who your local team is, we should all get out and support these young athletes as they continue toward their ultimate goal — a state title.

The Mining Journal congratulates all four teams on advancing, and wish them all the best moving forward.