HOUGHTON - The team of the year trophies in Class C and Division 8 have already been awarded to Negaunee and North Dickinson, respectively.
Calumet and L'Anse would rather be team of the night tonight in their district final games.
Both local teams playing in the second round of the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs are on the road against some of the U.P.'s best.
Calumet’s Jacob Pieti hauls in a pass in the first quarter of last Friday’s Division 6 pre-district game against Manistique at Agassiz Field. Calumet plays for the district title at Negaunee tonight. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"I thought we did a great job playing with playoff intensity right from the get go (in the first round)," Calumet coach John Croze said. "It certainly put Manistique on their heels early. Hopefully, we can maintain that level of intensity and even pick it up more this week."
In Division 6, Calumet and Negaunee already have one classic game in the books this season, a Week 2 contest at Agassiz Field won 12-6 by the Miners on a Brock Weaver touchdown catch with 2:15 to play. Round 2 is in Irontown, which as Croze, an Ishpeming alum, can attest, is a tough place to play.
"Both teams have evolved a lot," Croze said. "I think we've become a much more potent offensive team and we've really started clamping down on our defense in the last few weeks."
The Miners (9-1) suffered their only loss of 2012 in Week 8 at Marquette, while Calumet has now won seven in a row since starting the season 0-3.
The teams met in the playoffs in 1995 and 1999, with Negaunee taking both, though the Labor Day weekend contest in Calumet this year was their first regular season meeting since 1958. According to historian Bob Erkkila, the Miners and Copper Kings have played 18 times, with Calumet winning seven and tying one, since 1929.
With a victory, Calumet would have its longest playoff journey since 2006 and equal its longest run in school history.
Tonight's winner will face downstate opposition in the regional final: Maple City Glen Lake or Shelby. Negaunee would host either team, while Calumet would travel regardless of who wins.
In Division 8, L'Anse has a new job to do after a thrilling victory over Forest Park in round one: take down undefeated North Dickinson on the road.
"It was a huge win for our football program. Our kids are pretty level-headed, though. I don't think they let it get too much out of control as far as their emotions with it. I think they're a pretty good group as far as that goes," coach Mark Leaf said.
The Nordics, the U.P. Division 8 Team of the Year, have featured a shockingly prolific offense averaging 48.3 points per game. Maintaining the offensive balance Leaf saw from his team vs. FP will be key to keeping the Nordics from lighting up the scoreboard.
"We don't want to fall behind with that potent offense they have. You can't make mistakes against a quality team like them," Leaf said.
A win would put the Purple Hornets in the regional final for the first time in school history and would prevent a clash between the Nordics and St. Ignace many U.P. football fans have considered inevitable. St. Ignace faces Stephenson tonight in the Region 1, District 2 final.
"Every guy has to do their assignment and the big thing is their ball fakes are so good, we have to not bite on the fakes and we have to tackle. That's the big thing, we have to tackle," Leaf said.