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Welcome to the Red Line Online!
October 14, 2008 - Brandon Veale
I'm DMG Sports Editor Brandon Veale and you've stumbled upon The Red Line Online, my new blog. My intent is to use this space to give you even more than what you get in our daily paper, with links, notes, and a little silliness to boot.
My first offering is on the subject of high school football. We're down to just two weeks left in the regular season, and for the teams still in contention or on the bubble, talk of playoff pairings is already heating up. The Michigan system is amazingly complicated, but someone with a working knowledge of Google maps and a lot of time on their hands has generated mock pairings for the entire playoff field.
If the season ended today, here are the site's pairings involving U.P. teams, starting with Division 8:
4. Baraga (4-3) at 1. Forest Park (7-0) 3. North Dickinson (5-2) at 2. Lake Linden-Hubbell (7-0)
This would be one heck of a district. Baraga would likely relish a rematch, Giants-style, with the behemoth they almost beat (Granted, FP is likely to turn the wick up a bit too). North Dickinson's only two losses are to FP and Climax-Scotts, a powerhouse program near Battle Creek. However, the Nordics, as evidenced by their performances against Pickford, Bark River-Harris and even Ontonagon, have major weaknesses on defense. Baraga can seal a playoff berth Friday, but must earn a win over a relatively stout Washburn, Wis. team to do it. If they don't and they don't get in on playoff points, the map changes massively, as Bark River-Harris, who has a pair of near-automatic wins to close the season, gets thrown in. For the sake of argument, let's say the Vikings win.
The other U.P. Division 8 partial district currently is: 4. Pickford at 1. Cedarville 3. BR-Harris at 2. Gaylord St. Mary
I have serious doubts this will happen, as Pickford plays at home against Cedarville this week. I saw them against Rapid River in Week 1 and was not impressed. However, they hold a hidden ace. The Panthers' Week 4 win over Sault Ste. Marie (Ont.) White Pine counds for the record as if they'd beaten a Class B school, which could positively impact their playoff average. If Pickford is out, you're looking at a downstate team like Hillman or Johannesburg-Lewiston jumping into their spot. The big loser here is BR-Harris, because if that happens, the MHSAA is likely to invoke the "Geography Rule," and make them play Cedarville (173 miles) instead of St. Mary (216) or Hillman (240).
Division 7: 4. Rapid River (5-2) at 1. St. Ignace (5-2) 3. Westwood (4-3) at 2. Lincoln Alcona (4-3)
Don't put any stock in this one. Westwood has to win road games at Manistique (maybe) and Negaunee (no way) to get six wins. St. Ignace is in a tailspin (losses to Sault Ste. Marie and Cheboygan), and though they should get in with a win over Maple City Glen Lake this weekend, they are unlikely to be the top seed. Rapid River has to beat North Dickinson at home or L'Anse on the road (both, IMHO, challenging propositions) to get to six wins. Furthermore, both West Iron County and Manistique are perilously close to the D6/D7 cutline.
Division 6: 4. Manistique (5-2) at 1. Iron Mountain (7-0) 3. Calumet (5-2) at 2. West Iron County (6-1)
John Croze mentioned Friday that he didn't think he'd get a home playoff game, and barring some major movement, it doesn't look likely. West Iron County could drop to D7, but Calumet's point average is probably only going down, since their last two opponents are winless. The Redmen are so bad they'd get only slightly more points than they'd get for beating Croze's alma mater, Ishpeming, whose enrollment is just more than a quarter that of MSHS.
Manistique is a favorite, but not by much, in their last two games (Westwood and St. Ignace). If they somehow drop both, Boyne City probably takes their place and could kick the Copper Kings into a road trip to Iron Mountain. Yuck.
Division 5: 4. Grayling (4-3) at 1. Gladstone (6-1) 3. Menominee (5-2) at 2. Negaunee (6-1)
A couple of problems with this one. First, Negaunee probably won't stay in Division 5. Their dropping into D6 could create another Calumet-IM first-round game, but for now I'll keep my fingers crossed because I would pay good money to see the Miners and Maroons play. Grayling has a pair of 6-1 teams (TC St. Francis and Boyne) on their schedule as well. If they're out, Elk Rapids is the next closest team, they're undefeated and would slot in at No. 2.
Division 4: 4. Mount Pleasant at 1. Cheboygan 3. Kingsford at 2. Remus Chippewa Hills
Kind of hard to believe, but at 4-3 with two tricky games against Gladstone and Escanaba remaining, Kingsford, IMHO, easily one of the three (if not two) best teams in the U.P., could be out of the playoffs.
Division 3: 4. Escanaba at 1. Petoskey 3. Bay City John Glenn at 2. Mount Pleasant
Don't see this one happening either, mostly because Escanaba has to win their last two games, including beating Kingsford, to do it, and because I think the Eskymos are probably closer to D4.
The beautiful (and infuriating) part of this system is its fluidity. In two weeks, when the actual pairings are announced, this will probably be absolutely hilarious.
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