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Munising Mustangs just miss home berth, open playoffs downstate on Saturday

Munising’s Andrew Priebe, left, attempts to evade the tackle of Bark River-Harris’ Clayton Eichhorn during their game played in September 2019 at Harris. (Escanaba Daily Press file photo)

MUNISING — It’s been quite a turnaround this fall for the Munising High School football team as the Mustangs have gone from a winless 2019 campaign to a 4-2 record and MHSAA playoff spot in their first year as a eight-player program.

The only downside is that Munising closed out its regular season with back-to-back losses heading into the postseason, but head coach Matt Mattson isn’t sweating that.

“We had a couple injuries here and there,” he said. “The weather conditions were horrible at times, but we played good teams. Cedarville and Lake Linden(-Hubbell) are both fantastic teams. I think we’re OK heading into the playoffs. I think our health is getting better. We’ll be OK.”

The good thing is that the Mustangs might get starting quarterback Kane Nebel back for Saturday’s playoff opener after recovering from an injury. If Nebel isn’t cleared, Mattson said his squad had a good backup in Chad Trepczyk, who played there last week against the Lakes.

“Chad did a good job, honestly,” Mattson said. “We missed a couple things last week and let two people get shoestring tackled that were going in for scores.

“Then you’ve got to remember (Trepczyk is) still running the ball over 20 times a game besides playing quarterback and calling all the plays. So Chad did a great job.

“Last week we had our chances. There were just a couple big plays that we didn’t make and Lake Linden is a good football team. So we needed to capitalize on some chances that we had.”

That will be be even more important in the playoffs as the Mustangs start their postseason journey with a downstate trip to Indian River Inland Lakes (5-1). Mattson said that the Bulldogs have a large offensive line and they like to do a variety of things out of the backfield.

“They’re pretty big up front,” the coach said. “They have one kid who is 6-(foot-)4, 275 (pounds) and another one who is 6-2 and 245. They like to do a little split backfield, spin-dive action in the backfield and they also like to try to get to the outside on some tosses and some sweeps.

“They’re a very good football team and we’ll have our work cut out for us.

“Their defense is more like an amoeba. They’re coming from different angles and it’s not like they’re just gonna play a 3-3 or a 4-2. They’re going to come at you from some different angles, so we’ll have to make sure that our offensive line plays good.”

It was a bit of a surprise to see the Mustangs being forced to start the playoffs on the road, but Mattson said his team isn’t shaken by it and is just glad his team got to play all six regular-season games.

“I thought, worst-case scenario if we lost last week, we’d be a (No.) 4 seed and still hosting,” he said. “But it’s 2020 and with this COVID situation, a team dropped out and another team bumped up a spot, which pushed us down to the (No.) 5 seed.

“I’m thankful we got all six games in and our seniors got six regular-season games in. We’re in the playoffs and it’s a 4-5 seed situation. We have a decent chance, we just happen to be on the road.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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