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High school football playoff matchups set

Negaunee’s Eli Luokkala, left, catches a pass he would turn into a touchdown as Manistique’s Wyatt Gierke defends during the second quarter of their high school football game played at the Miners' field on Sept. 18. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

MARQUETTE — Seven of the area’s nine playing high school football teams will be in action this weekend for the first round of the expanded MHSAA playoffs.

That was good news for one of the idle teams and bad news for the other.

It’s good news for Westwood, which received a first-round bye as the second-highest rated team in its eight-team Division 6 district.

The Patriots (5-1) and Menominee (4-2) each received a bye after just six teams were available to fill the eight spots for its District 41, but both should be in action during the second round to be held the weekend of Nov. 6-7.

Every team that was eligible qualified for the 11-player playoffs, which wasn’t true in 8-player as Superior Central (0-6) found out.

This fall, the MHSAA doubled the size of the field in each type of football, meaning a field larger than the number of teams in 11-player but only including 64 of a possible 84 schools playing 8-player.

Those 84 were likely pared down by teams that opted not to participate in the playoffs or weren’t eligible for several reasons, including current shutdowns due to coronavirus pandemic concerns.

But it still left more than 64.

Several years ago, 8-player split into two divisions, each doubling to 32 teams this year.

There were apparently 39 teams available in Division 1 and the Cougars were one of the seven that were left out and the only one from the Upper Peninsula.

In 8-player Division 2, three teams didn’t qualify, all in the Lower Peninsula.

The other seven area schools will be in action this weekend, with game times to be announced today.

In Division 3, Marquette (5-1) will be the lone area team with a home game in the first round as the Redmen host Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (2-4).

MSHS had the third-most points of the eight teams in District 17, meaning they would host the team with the sixth-most points.

Their district includes several teams they’re familiar with from past regular seasons or playoffs, including Petoskey (2-4), Mount Pleasant (5-1) and Muskegon (5-1).

In Division 6, Negaunee (3-3) will play at Gladstone (2-3), even though the Miners have a better record. That’s because the Braves have about three more playoff points, 24.933 vs. 22.000, based on the size of schools they’ve played and the number of wins by their opponents.

They’re in District 41, the same one as Westwood. It wasn’t known if Negaunee will actually be able to play this game as it had previously announced it canceled extracurricular events, including sports, through Friday because of pandemic concerns.

All six teams in District 41 are in the central and western U.P. as it also includes Houghton and Calumet.

In Division 7, Manistique (2-3) and L’Anse (1-5) both go on long road trips downstate this weekend.

The Emeralds play at Mancelona (2-4), while the Purple Hornets get the usually unenviable task of playing at Traverse City St. Francis (4-2). The rest of their District 49 consists of Lower Peninsula teams.

In Division 8, Gwinn (3-3) plays at downstate East Jordan (3-3). Though they have the same records, East Jordan has not quite one more playoff point, 19.833 to 18.867.

Their District 57 has six U.P. teams, also including Iron Mountain (5-1), West Iron County (6-0), Bark River-Harris (3-2), Norway (1-4) and St. Ignace (1-5).

In 8-player, two teams are in Region 1 of Division 1 and also have downstate trips to make.

Munising (4-2) plays at Indian River Inland Lakes (5-1), while Newberry (3-3) goes to Onaway (6-0).

This region includes three other U.P. teams — Pickford (5-1), Stephenson (3-3) and Brimley (2-4).

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

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