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Expecting to witness a sea of blue and white for Hematites game

After a back-and-forth battle on Nov. 9 that was anyone’s game until the Hematites finally pulled away in the fourth quarter to top Lake Linden-Hubbell 30-18, Ishpeming is now headed to Mount Pleasant to face the Beal City Aggies (10-1) at 1 p.m. today for the MHSAA Division 8 regional championship.

“It feels great,” Ishpeming head coach George Niemi said. “I couldn’t be more happy for the community, for the kids, for the coaching staff; it just feels great.”

This third-round playoff game pits programs with similar winning traditions, similar strategic philosophies and even similar school colors — blue and white.

“Beal City, we know they’re a big, athletic team that likes to run the ball, just like us,” Niemi said. “They beat an undefeated Johannesburg-Lewiston team just last week, so we know they can play and compete.”

That sounds much like the 9-2 Hematites. What also sounds Ishpeming-like is the Aggies’ past playoff success. Though this year ended a two-year drought in the playoffs, Beal City had appeared in the playoffs not only the previous 17 years, but 34 of past 37 seasons, too, from 1980-2016.

Ishpeming began their playoff run with a 48-8 thrashing of Bark River-Harris. The strong finish against LL-H was necessitated by a less-than-auspicious beginning to the game for the Hematites, who fumbled away the opening kickoff but kept the Lakes from gaining any points from it.

“Our kids don’t panic,” Niemi said. “We just kept trading touchdowns, trading scores for a while until they could get control.”

A victory by the Hematites would send them into the Division 8 semifinals to be played at a neutral-site field, which Ishpeming school officials hope will be the Superior Dome in Marquette. There’s quite a bit of doubt about that, however, with the eight-player state finals being played there the same weekend, along with competing claims by Division 6 playoff team Calumet and Division 7’s Iron Mountain if they also win this weekend.

While the Aggies may have the home field advantage, Yoopers always travel well, especially in these playoff games where the stakes are so high. We expect that Mount Pleasant crowd will be overtaken by a sea of blue and white, and we’ll show them what “U.P. Power” is all about. Go Hematites!