Manistique Emeralds, L’Anse Purple Hornets, Newberry Indians look for playoff success
MARQUETTE — In a strange year for all sports, high school football has been no exception.
Three area schools are in the MHSAA football playoffs despite not having winning records after the high school sports organization doubled the size of the field this year due to a shortening of the regular season to six weeks.
That guaranteed every 11-player team a berth, while all but 10 of 74 eight-player teams that were ready to play got in.
Included in the playoff fields are Manistique and L’Anse in the smallest-enrollment division of 11-player, Division 8, while Newberry is entered in the larger-schools group of eight-player, Division 1.
While not surprising that they are on the road in the first round, it might just be a coincidence that all three have to travel over the Mackinac Bridge to play in their first district-round games.
Teams were placed into seven- or eight-team districts (in 11-player) or and eight-team regionals (in eight-player) based geographically for the first three rounds of the playoffs.
One criteria of eligibility for entry into the eight-player football playoffs is the enrollment of the school, or the combined enrollments in the case of cooperatives, must make them a Class D size, which Newberry has been in for most of the past few years.
Here is a look at each team’s season and upcoming first-round opponent:
The Emeralds and L’Anse are the same Division 8 district, though it’s likely any meeting between them wouldn’t happen until the third round after West Iron County and Iron Mountain picked up forfeit wins on Thursday.
Manistique, playing in the Iron Division of the West PAC, won one contested game during the season, a 12-0 victory at home against the Gogebic Miners, while also receiving a forfeit win against Iron Mountain just this past week.
The Emeralds also lost at Negaunee 39-8, at home against Westwood 44-0 and at home to Bark River-Harris 28-0.
First-round opponent Mancelona is 2-4 with losses to a quartet of teams that are at least 4-2 — Johanneburg-Lewiston, Charlevoix, Maple City Glen Lake and Boyne City. But of those losses, three were by at least 27 points with only a 24-8 loss to Charlevoix being reasonably close.
The Ironmen’s two wins were over 1-5 Elk Rapids and 0-5 Kalkaska.
The Purple Hornets drew the unenviable task of taking on perennial powerhouse Traverse City St. Francis in the first round that will be played at 6 p.m. Saturday.
L’Anse picked up a 40-14 victory over Gogebic in the season’s opening week, then lost four contested games plus a forfeit — 16-7 at home vs. WIC, 29-6 at Negaunee, 55-15 at home vs. Westwood and 28-0 at home vs. BR-H. In between was the forfeit to IM.
St. Francis is 4-2 with wins over Grayling, Cheboygan, West Branch Ogemaw Heights and Jackson Lumen Christi, while its losses were to Sault Ste. Marie 14-7 in its opener and to Kingsley.
In a tough Region 1, despite a .500 record the Indians actually have the second-worst record and second fewest playoff points among the eight teams in their region, which includes Munising.
That means Newberry has to play at the No. 2 seed, 6-0 Onaway, at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Indians won three of their last four, beating North Dickinson 37-0, Carney-Nadeau 55-8 and Engadine 20-6. Early losses came to Forest Park 20-12, Munising 40-0 and Rapid River 48-12.
Onaway only played one team with a winning record, 3-2 Atlanta. The Cardinals’ other wins came against Bellaire, St. Helen Charlton Heston Academy, Central Lake, Fife Lake Forest Area and Posen.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.