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Negaunee Miners football set for playoff game on Jan. 9

Negaunee's Philip Nelson, center, makes an interception of a Westwood pass in front of Patriots' receiver Jack Boase in their MHSAA Division 6 playoff game at Westwood High School on Nov. 6. (Photo courtesy Curtis Aho)

EAST LANSING — The next round of the high school football playoffs will be held in less than two weeks on Saturday, Jan. 9, according to a Saturday sports news release from the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

The playoffs include Negaunee’s varsity team, which has been in a holding pattern along with 63 other 11-player teams and eight eight-player teams from around the state since mid-November, when a state of Michigan order halted activities such as sports from being held.

The MHSAA’s website, www.mhsaa.com, lists the Miners’ regional finals game in Division 6 as set for 2 p.m. that day, though that was the schedule listed before the playoffs were stopped.

NHS head football coach and athletic director Paul Jacobson said Sunday night that that time hasn’t been confirmed yet with their opponent, Grayling High School, but expects it to be confirmed this week.

The 6-3 Negaunee team will play at 6-3 Grayling. The Lower Peninsula school gets to host the game as it had more playoff points accumulated during the regular season, 26.667 to 22.000. That’s based on wins, records of opponents and the size classification the opponents are in.

The other Upper Peninsula teams remaining in the playoffs are Iron Mountain in Division 7 11-player and North Central in Division 2 eight-player. They are also scheduled to play Jan. 9.

The MHSAA said football teams can begin holding outdoor, noncontact conditioning and drills starting today. The practices can also include wearing helmets and shoulder pads with physical distancing today and Tuesday in advance of the first round of testing that can begin Wednesday.

Jacobson said he expects to follow that schedule as he plans to be receiving testing kits by Wednesday.

The testing of players, coaches and other team personnel is part of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ protocol for a rapid testing pilot program that utilizes BinaxNOW antigen testing that produces results within 15 minutes, according to the MHSAA.

With a round of negative tests, full-contact practices are then allowed.

Following the regionals in 11-player, the rest of the playoffs will be held the next two weekends. Semifinals are set for Saturday, Jan. 16, and state finals on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 22-23.

Eight-player is a week ahead of 11-player, with the semis set for Jan. 9 and state finals on Jan. 16.

The MHSAA hasn’t confirmed that finals sites remain the same, Ford Field in Detroit for 11-player and the Midland Community Stadium in Midland for eight-player.

Northern Michigan University’s indoor Superior Dome in Marquette was originally planned for eight-player finals, but was changed to the outdoor venue downstate around the time the playoffs began in late October.

Volleyball and Lower Peninsula girls swimming and diving are also scheduled to be completed in January, the MHSAA said, though as indoor sports, they are waiting for the MDHHS order to expire on Jan. 15, which would allow their tourneys to resume without rapid testing.

Even if the pandemic order continues after that date, the MHSAA will likely implement the testing in those sports to get them completed by the end of January.

The MHSAA said it will finalize and announce plans for volleyball and swimming in early January.

The remaining Upper Peninsula teams in the volleyball tourneys are Calumet in Division 3 and Carney-Nadeau and Rudyard in Division 4.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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