Smith: Northern Michigan Teams Prep for a Long Drive as Playoffs Begin
The Michigan high school football playoffs are upon us…let us rejoice! It’s time to crown our travel distance state champions!
Will an unlikely underdog make an amazing run to Ford Field, or will the favorite prove why they were so highly favored to begin with? All this will be decided over the next five games, culminating in 10 champions from across the state. One of the factors in getting to the finals is home field advantage. Which can sometimes prove to be the deciding factor in a close game. So let’s take a look at how far away teams are traveling in this first round, and what sort of advantage that gives the home teams in round 1.
Away schools in Division 1 are getting the smallest amount of travel advantage in the pre district rounds for 11-man football, 29.42 miles on average. While Division 7 away schools are traveling the farthest on average, 65.93 miles.
The 8-man divisions are trending even higher, as many of the teams are located in northern Michigan, the U.P., the thumb and southwestern Michigan. Away teams in Division 1 for 8-man football has an average travel distance of 96.79 miles, and Division 2 travels an average of 106.69.
But what teams are the outliers you ask?
The top five farthest travel distances all involve teams from Northern Michigan and the UP. With Marquette traveling a staggering 437 miles to play Muskegon at Grand Haven’s Gene Rothi Field. To put this into perspective, Marquette could travel to the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana in under 437 miles. But how does the top five farthest trips stack up?
Marquette at Muskegon: 437 miles
Cadillac at Escanaba: 293 miles
Mancelona at Iron Mountain: 283 miles
Ludington at Sault Ste. Marie: 269 miles
Brethren at Climax-Scotts: 194 miles
The top five shortest travel distances mostly follow teams from Detroit and the Metro Detroit area. However two of our matchups are outside of the east side of the state, with Portage Northern driving 3.2 miles to rival Portage Central for our shortest trip in the first round. Jonesville also travels 5.3 miles down M-99 to play at Hillsdale. As for the top five shortest trips this week?
Portage Northern at Portage Central: 3.2 miles
Macomb Dakota at Chippewa Valley: 3.8 miles
Detroit Loyola at Detroit Central: 4.8 miles
Detroit Western at Dearborn Fordson: 5.1 miles
Jonesville at Hillsdale: 5.3 miles
Honorable mention for the shortest distance goes to the Zeeland East & Zeeland West game, as both teams share the same home field for football which is .3 miles away.
The road to Ford Field begins this weekend. But what remains to be seen is how far each team will have to travel over the next five weeks to get there. Will an away team overcome a several hour trip to win on the road? Or will home field advantage reign supreme. All these questions will be answered starting Friday, and I can’t wait to see what surprises this year’s playoffs has in store for us.