HOUGHTON - Special stakes are on the line as Week 6 begins throughout the Upper Peninsula football season.
One of several teams acutely aware of that is L'Anse, which travels to Ironwood tonight with a chance to guarantee the second playoff berth in 14 years for the school.
The Purple Hornets (5-0), who have outscored opponents by a nearly 4-to-1 clip, will be favored against the Red Devils, who gave Northland Pines a challenge before losing 46-21 to fall to 2-3 on the season.
Victory pushes L'Anse to the magic six-win plateau and automatic playoff qualification. The Purple Hornets last qualified in 2007.
Seven U.P. teams can make the playoffs with wins this weekend (though two of them, Forest Park and North Dickinson, are playing each other), but there's much on the line even for the ones who aren't there yet.
Calumet (2-3) hosts West Iron County (3-2) tonight at Agassiz Field with the knowledge that the loser is almost certainly out of the WestPAC title race. If the Copper Kings win, then take out L'Anse in their home finale next week, they have a shot at forcing at least a three-way tie atop the standings, provided L'Anse defeats NP at Meadowbrook Field in Week 8.
The Copper Kings lost their grip on the WestPAC crown last year in Iron River, as a turnover-filled contest went the Wykons' way, 14-12.
West Iron's chances at winning the league require a win tonight and a win next week over NP, plus some help from the Eagles in L'Anse.
Four other area teams have some miles to put on their buses this weekend: Houghton (0-5) is at Northland Pines (5-0), while Baraga (0-5) is at Hurley, Wis. (3-2) and Ontonagon (0-5) travels to Munising (1-4).
Saturday, Lake Linden-Hubbell (3-2) faces a must-win matchup at Warner Field against Hancock (1-4).
Because of its co-op arrangement, any win over Hancock nets playoff points equal to that of beating a Class B?team, which could pay off for the Lakes if they finish 5-4 and need to get into the playoffs on that criteria. Kickoff Saturday is at 1:30 p.m.