HOUGHTON - Two games that may have an impact on the MHSAA Division 8 playoffs when the schedule is released Sunday are prominent on the Week 9 schedule.
The first of these is Saturday in Lake Linden, where the Lakes will host rival Forest Park.
The Trojans' status as the top seed in Region 1, District 1 and at least a co-champion of the Great Western Conference is secure. However, the Lakes can get a share of the league and give a third share to Hurley if they beat FP for the first time since a 36-6 blowout in the 2009 finale.
Lake Linden-Hubbell is a win away from automatic playoff qualification, but finds itself in a favorable position regardless of how Saturday's game goes.
Thanks to wins over Class B Hancock in Week 6 and seven-win Class D North Dickinson last Friday, LL-H has a high playoff point average.
After all the automatic qualifiers are checked off, the rest of the 256-team playoff field is filled with 'wild cards' that have records of 5-4 or 4-4 with each of the MHSAA's four classes getting an equal share of the slots.
In a "Favorites Win" projection of the Division 8 field at snooze2you.com, there are expected to be seven such wild cards in D-8 alone, with LL-H having the best playoff point average of the bunch.
In fact, LL-H's points are so good that a 5-4 record may still be good for a higher seed than Gogebic, even if the Miners qualify automatically by beating Ironwood tonight, as none of the Miners' wins have come against a team with a winning record.
If LL-H ends up the three seed in its district, it could face L'Anse in the playoff opener. The Purple Hornets are attempting to book one of the best seasons in school history in their regular season finale tonight at Munising.
Going to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history, L'Anse posted 8-1 seasons in 2007, 1988 and 1985 (in which it missed the playoffs despite a single loss). The 1986 Hornets followed that up by posting an unbeaten regular season before a first-round loss to Traverse City St. Francis.
Munising is one of six U.P. teams, including Houghton and Lake Linden-Hubbell, that needs to win its final game for automatic playoff qualification.
The Mustangs had one of the toughest starts in the U.P., losing their first three games to teams that are now a combined 20-4, holding U.P. Division 1-7 No. 4 West Iron County to seven points (and losing 7-0) and falling to North Central and North Dickinson by two and four points, respectively.
The Mustangs have rattled off five straight wins since, with three coming by less than 10 points.
Outside the playoff picture, Calumet will attempt to finish off 2013 with consecutive home wins when it plays 0-8 Gladstone tonight at Agassiz Field.
The Braves have struggled defensively in the Great Northern Conference, surrendering an average of 44 points per game.
Baraga and Ontonagon meet tonight at Carlson Field in Ontonagon with both sides attempting to find that elusive first victory. The teams met in a similar situation in Baraga last year, with Ontonagon winning 44-14.