HOUGHTON - Before the lights go up on the 2013 prep football postseason, the media has spoken one last time throughout Michigan to give its opinion, and it's a familiar one.
Menominee and Forest Park will go into the playoffs as the No. 1 teams in the U.P. in their respective classifications after the final U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association football poll was released today.
Their undefeated seasons make them likely to be crowned Team of the Year in Class A-B and Division 8, respectively, when the UPSSA meets to vote on its All-U.P. teams later this week. Fans will have to wait until the awards are released Saturday morning to see whether it's West Iron County or Ishpeming for the Class C trophy.
Houghton’s Sam Bethancourt wraps up a West Iron County ballcarrier as Ben Collaer joins the play during the Week 5 game in September. Both teams will have playoff games this weekend. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
The Maroons continue to be a single point ahead of Ishpeming in the vote, getting three of five first-place votes and 23 points.
Houghton (6-3) will make the trip to face Menominee in the Division 5 pre-district round - the time for that game has been finalized at 2 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at Menominee's Walton Blesch Field.
Menominee, which is also ranked No. 1 in Division 5 by the Associated Press, clinched sole possession of the Great Northern Conference title for the first time since 2007 by crushing Marquette 51-7 in Marquette, scoring 23 points in a six-minute span of the second quarter with the help of multiple turnovers.
1. Menominee (3) 9-0 23
2. Ishpeming (2) 9-0 22
3. Negaunee 8-1 14
4. West Iron Co. 9-0 11
5. Kingsford 7-2 2
Others: Houghton 6-3, 1; Marquette 5-3, 1; SS Marie 6-3, 1.
1. Forest Park (5) 9-0 25
2. North Central 7-2 17
3. N. Dickinson 6-2 14
4. St. Ignace 7-2 13
5. Munising 6-3 5
1. Rapid River (5) 9-0 25
2. Cedarville 8-1 20
The winner of Saturday's game will face Kingsford or Grayling in the district finals.
Kingsford (7-2), back in the poll at No. 5 for the first time since it lost to Marquette in Week 6, goes below the bridge Saturday for a rematch with the Vikings, which they beat 36-14 at Flivver Field in the first round last year.
Ishpeming (9-0) remains No. 2 in the poll with two first-place votes and 22 poll points.
The Mid-Peninsula Conference champs, however, can only expect home-field advantage for one round.
West Iron County (9-0) is the top seed in Division 7, Region 1, District 1 by virtue of a higher (81.778 to 75.556) playoff point average. The Wykons, ranked fourth in this week's UPSSA poll, will host Traverse City St. Francis Friday night in a pre-district game before Mancelona travels to Ishpeming Saturday afternoon.
Ishpeming was ranked No. 1 in Michigan by AP in all seven weeks of this year's Division 7 poll, while West Iron climbed to No. 4 in the final ballot.
The other ranked team in the final U.P. poll is Negaunee, which comes in at No. 3 with 14 points.
The 8-1 Miners are the only U.P. team in the entire Division 6 bracket, but have homefield advantage through the first two rounds, starting with a Saturday, 1 p.m., contest against Indian River Inland Lakes.
Elk Rapids and Boyne City are on the other side of the district, while Ithaca, winners of 51 straight games (the second-longest streak in the nation) and three straight D-6 state titles, looms in a potential regional final.
Despite their lopsided loss, Marquette (5-3) still found a home in the playoff bracket, but it's a long trip to Midland High in a Division 2 pre-district game.
Sault Ste. Marie won its moment of truth game over Newberry in Week 9 and even snared a postseason home game. The Blue Devils (6-3) will host Ionia (7-2) in Division 3 after just edging them in playoff point average.
Houghton, Marquette and Sault High all received single votes in the final poll.
Nine of the 19 U.P. teams to make the playoffs are in Division 8.
Forest Park, which completed the first official 9-0 regular season in school history by winning at Lake Linden-Hubbell Saturday (the 2007 Trojans won all their games on the field but had to forfeit one for using an ineligible player), is the highest seeded and highest ranked of them all.
FP is No. 1 in the final U.P. poll and will host a Great Western Conference rematch with the 6-3 Gogebic Miners in round one Friday night.
On the other side of the bracket, Lake Linden-Hubbell will play L'Anse Friday at 7 p.m. at Meadowbrook Field in L'Anse. L'Anse's loss to Munising led to its exit from the poll after two weeks in.
In Region 1, District 2, North Dickinson retained its top seed amidst a crowded field, though the Mid-Eastern Conference champs were slotted behind a team in their own league, North Central, in the final U.P. poll.
The 7-2 Jets will host Munising (6-3) Friday night, while North Dickinson (6-2) is at home to Pickford.
The Nordics lost two of their last three games (though the win was over North Central 36-20) and were idle in Week 9, while North Central closed by edging Stephenson 27-22.
The other team in the U.P. poll and in the Division 8 bracket is St. Ignace, which gets Hillman (5-4) Friday night in Region 2, District 1.
The Saints, who lost their finale 48-16 to Division 4 Cheboygan, were one of three U.P. teams ranked in the last AP poll of the year, behind Forest Park at 5 and North Dickinson at 9.
St. Ignace would likely have to go through No. 1 in that ranking, Beal City, in a regional final before it would see another team from above the bridge.
There are three U.P. teams in the eight-man bracket, all from east of U.S. 41: Rapid River, which earned top eight-man honors from UPSSA, hosts Posen Friday, while Engadine (5-4) is at Cedarville (8-1).