An exciting finish to regular season: Redmen, Miners, Patriots each earn No. 1 votes in weekly UPSSA football poll

Marquette's Gideon Bell, left, gets a clutch touch on the ball during an attempted field goal by Clare's Camden Babcock, right, in their high school football game played at William R. Hart Stadium in Marquette on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. The holder for the Pioneers is Jacob Recker. The ball hit the left upright and bounced back and was no good. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

MARQUETTE — Now we’re talking!

With the final weekend of the regular season coming up in the next day or two, the race has tightened considerably to determine the best 11-player football team in the Upper Peninsula.

It’s gotten so close, in fact, that four teams received first-place votes from the five select members of the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association who vote each week on the best 11-player and 8-player teams north of the Mackinac Bridge.

The rankings actually remain unchanged from last week, however, in 11-player with Menominee still No. 1, but only by a single vote — and an edge of one first-place vote — over No. 2 Marquette. Last week, Menominee was a unanimous choice at No. 1 after its 34-13 win the previous Friday at MSHS.

Westwood and Negaunee remained tied for third, though this week each also received a first-place vote as they inch closer to the leaders.

This all happened because Menominee (5-3) lost while the three Marquette County teams in the conversation all picked up decisive wins.

The Maroons lost to Little Chute, Wisconsin, 15-6, while the Redmen (6-2) took out Division 1 Traverse City West 28-17, Westwood (7-1) blitzed Bark River-Harris 50-8 and Negaunee (7-1) downed Houghton 26-6.

In addition, Calumet (6-2) remained fifth after dispatching Hancock 30-0 and Sault Ste. Marie (5-3) continued in the “Others” list by beating Benzie Central 22-0.

Marquette, Negaunee and Westwood all improved their status in the Associated Press’ state polls which, like the UPSSA ratings, are released each Tuesday during the regular season.

The Redmen entered the competitive Division 3 poll for the first time in a tie for 13th place with three votes, just two fewer than 10th-place Haslett. The top 10 including Muskegon and Mount Pleasant, teams MSHS has faced in the playoffs in recent years.

The Miners bumped up a spot in Division 6 to sixth place with 25 votes, five votes behind No. 5 Reed City and nine votes ahead of No. 7 Boyne City. Each of those schools could be early-round opponents in the playoffs for Negaunee.

The Patriots finally broke into the top 10 in Division 7 at eighth place after hovering just outside that exclusive club for several weeks. Westwood received 11 votes, two ahead of No. 9 Detroit Central and seven back of No. 7 Reese. A traditionally tough triumvirate of Traverse City St. Francis, Pewamo-Westphalia and Jackson Lumen Christi occupy the top spots in that poll.

No other U.P. teams are listed in the 11-player polls.

In eight-player, Munising slipped what would be considered a half spot from a tie for fourth into fifth alone as the Mustangs (6-2) received a forfeit victory over Ironwood last weekend.

North Central (8-0) continued as the No. 1 unanimous choice as it has all season, while Pickford (7-1) leapfrogged Forest Park (7-1) for second as the Panthers dropped Cedarville 44-6 and the Trojans lost to Lake Linden-Hubbell 36-6.

The Lakes (6-2) moved into fourth ahead of Munising with their big win.

Newberry (6-2) continued to receive votes but remains in the “Others” category after dumping Engadine 59-14.

The U.P. top five are the same five who received votes in the AP eight-player poll, with North Central at No. 1 and Pickford at No. 7 ranked in the top 10.

Munising is 15th with two votes and Forest Park and LL-H are tied for 16th each with a single vote. The Mustangs are four votes shy of cracking the top 10.

This week will be the final games of the season for about half the state’s teams as the MHSAA went back to its traditional fields for the football playoffs — 256 teams over eight divisions in 11-player and 32 teams across two divisions in eight-player.

On Thursday, Ishpeming will host Bark River-Harris.

Everyone else in the area plays Friday. That includes Marquette at Petoskey, Negaunee at Westwood, Houghton at Gwinn, L’Anse at Calumet, Manistique at Iron Mountain, Munising at Brimley, Superior Central at Rapid River and Newberry at Rogers City.

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


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