Northern Michigan MHSAA Football Playoffs Preview: 8-Player Divisions 1-2

The brackets for the MHSAA football playoffs are out and all week long our MISportsNow team has been breaking down the playoff picture in each division for teams in the 9&10 News coverage area.

Each member of the MISportsNow team was asked to give their thoughts on the local playoff picture for each division.

We wrap up our coverage by taking a look at the 8-player divisions.

Division 1:

  • Newberry (8-1) at Rogers City (9-0) – Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.
  • Inland Lakes (6-3) at Merrill (9-0) – Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.

Tyler Driesenga, Sports Reporter/Anchor: It doesn’t get much better than that Newberry at Rogers City game in the first round. It’s a shame that those two have to meet in the first round as both teams have the talent to make deep playoff runs. Rogers City can put up points in a hurry. Last week, they trailed Hillman 16-0 early in the game. All they did after that was respond with a whopping 58 unanswered points to win it going away. The Hurons are playing their best football at the right time, too, having put up 50 or more points in each of their past four games.

Much like Greg and Danielle, I’m really interested to see how that Rogers City offense does against Newberry’s stout defense. The Indians have put up shutouts in four of their last five regular season games, and their 41-0 win over a solid Pickford team was highly impressive. Can Newberry’s defense slow down the Hurons’ offense well enough to spoil their unbeaten season in the first round of the playoffs? Or will the Hurons keep it rolling past their toughest test yet?

Inland Lakes will have to play on the road against Merrill, one of three undefeated teams in the state in 8-player D1, in the first round. It doesn’t get much tougher than that, but Inland Lakes has prepared itself well with a difficult regular season schedule. In a brutal three-week stretch, lnland Lakes faced GR Northpointe Christian, Central Lake and Gaylord St. Mary and came away with two wins in those three games. The Bulldogs will have to play their best game of the year to knock off Merrill.

Greg Miller, Sports Photojournalist: In our Divisions 5-6 breakdown I mentioned that Ogemaw Heights at Gladwin might be the game that I would most want to watch as a spectator, but if there’s a “1b” on that list, it has to be Newberry at Rogers City.  This is one of those games where at the end you’re likely to say “it’s a shame one of them had to lose.”  For those of you thinking there might be an upset here, Newberry’s defense has been particularly stout over the past month or so.  They’ve only allowed ONE score in their past five games.  But, as a contrast, Rogers City has been lighting up scoreboards over the past month.  Plenty of intrigue!

Meanwhile, our only other local team in 8-Player Division One is Inland Lakes.  The Bulldogs will have their hands full, taking on an undefeated Merrill team that has won each of their games by at least 20 points.  For those looking for a state champion out of this division, there are a number of incredibly powerful teams to choose from; Munising, Merrill, Kingston, Brown City (who pounded a number of our local teams during the season), and potentially the winner of that Newberry/Rogers City game, not to mention former champion Adrian Lenawee Christian.

Danielle King, Sports Reporter/Anchor: Newberry started and ended its season with a bang (a 58-0 win in week one and a 49-0 win in week nine), yet Rogers City has looked unstoppable to this point. This is a GREAT first round matchup and while the Hurons went undefeated, the Indians won a majority of their games in shutout fashion. This should be a really close game and I’m confident whichever team comes out victorious will set themselves up for a deep playoff run.

Inland Lakes looked solid this season, like Newberry they started and ended the season with a bang (a 52-0 win in week one and a 68-33 win in week nine). Merrill went undefeated and was high-scoring, so it will be vital for the Bulldogs’ defense to play its best game of the season.

Division 2:

  • Posen (7-2) at Marion (9-0)
  • Central Lake (7-2) at Gaylord St. Mary (7-2)

Tyler Driesenga, Sports Reporter/Anchor: The numbers Marion has put up this season are comically impressive. The Eagles have scored 582 points this season and allowed 85. Read that again…slowly. It’s been just an absurd level of dominance. The only hole you could poke in the Eagles this season would be their strength of schedule. Marion did not play a single opponent that made the playoffs, but made a statement in the regular season finale by beating Farwell 62-6. Farwell was 7-1 coming into that game and would be a playoff team except they are ineligible due to school enrollment size (the MHSAA allows schools with an enrollment of 215 or fewer students to make the 8-player playoffs, Farwell’s enrollment is closer to 230 students). If I had to pick an 8-player team from our area to make a run to state championship glory, Marion would be the team. The Eagles have looked the part all season long, now we’ll see if they can do it against the state’s best.

On the other side of that regional is Central Lake at Gaylord St. Mary. I would have to agree with Greg, Central Lake has come on strong at the end of the season and I view this game as a total toss-up on Friday night.

Greg Miller, Sports Photojournalist: The first time Gaylord St. Mary and Central Lake met, it was a 12-point Snowbird win back in week 2.  The results for the Trojans lately suggest that they may be rounding into form, and ready to make a deep run.  This very well could be the most entertaining game of the weekend, both teams have potent offenses that can score points in bunches.

And after surviving that battle, the winner of that game will potentially be facing a truly momentous task, taking on the Marion juggernaut.  No disrespect to Posen, who has had a great year to reach the postseason, but Marion may be one of the most complete teams (of either size) that I’ve seen this season.  For a small school, they boast a good deal of size and strength across their front line, but they also have a number of explosive weapons capable of breaking a game open.  And, their defense was incredibly impressive all season long.  So long as they stay humble, and keep playing the way they have, I would not at all be surprised to see the Eagles in a semifinal rematch with Powers North Central a few weeks from now.

Danielle King, Sports Reporter/Anchor: I really want to touch on Central Lake at Gaylord St. Mary because that should be a great matchup given how similar the two were this season. The two met up early in the season with the Snowbirds taking the W, but a lot has changed since August. I saw Central Lake’s matchup against Farwell, and one word that would definitely describe the Trojans is persistent. I think that persistence will pay off against the Snowbirds, setting the Trojans up to take their best shot at the Marion juggernaut that Greg and Tyler talked about.


Categories: Football