HOUGHTON - Football fans missing the old days in which the Superior Dome was a postseason Mecca all November are in for a treat Saturday.
Three U.P. teams will play back-to-back-to-back for a right to go to Ford Field after the U.P. went 3-2 in the regional finals played last weekend.
The opener, at 10 a.m. (EST) will pit Beal City and Forest Park after the Trojans held off North Dickinson's comeback attempt in a Division 8 regional final Friday night in Crystal Falls.
FP has earned its eighth trip to the semifinals in the last 10 years under coach Bill Santilli.
The Trojans struck first, scoring a pair of touchdowns early in the second quarter, first on a 2-yard run from Lee Graff, then on a 37-yard pass from Jeff Johnson to Austin Snell.
The Nordics responded on a pair of touchdown passes from Logan O'Neil to Noah Berg, of 69 and 17 yards, with only the two two-point conversions providing the 16-12 difference going into the fourth quarter.
Graff barreled in on another short run with 6:07 to play for a 22-12 lead, only for Berg and O'Neil to connect seconds later, then again on the conversion pass, to cut the gap to 22-20.
FP used the punt game to pin the Nordics on their own 1-yard line with 2:17 to play, then doubled their lead on third down when O'Neil was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
The Nordics, however, recovered an onside free kick, and moved the ball over midfield. On 4th-and-15 from the FP 47, O'Neil threw to Berg along the sideline, but Matt Schultz found nowhere to go on the hook-and-lateral play, preserving the win.
Raymond Tomasik ran for 117 yards on 15 carries for the winners, who face a daunting task Saturday.
Beal City (12-0) is ranked No. 1 in the final Associated Press Division 8 state poll (FP is No. 5) and has outscored its opponents by an average of 57.6 to 7, including a 55-0 destruction of St. Ignace last Friday night.
In the 1 p.m. game will be an even rarer treat: a matchup of 2012 state champions. Ishpeming (12-0) earned the right to play Harbor Beach (12-0) by fending off Lake City 28-13 Saturday.
The Hematites bottled up Lake City's offense, holding the Trojans to minus-17 rushing yards and sacking quarterback Drew Marion three times and intercepting three passes.
Adam Prisk ran for three touchdowns and 117 yards on 13 carries.
Lake City cut a 14-0 deficit to 14-13 by the mid-third quarter, only for Prisk to finish it off with touchdown runs of 10 and 11 yards down the stretch.
Ishpeming's opponent Saturday, hailing from the tip of Michigan's Thumb area, beat Beal City 35-10 in last year's Division 8 final, but because of the MHSAA's floating classifications, HB is the smallest school by enrollment in the 32-team Division 7 bracket.
The only team to beat Harbor Beach this season is Menominee, which is still alive in Division 5 after a more-lopsided-than-it-looks 49-27 win over Standish-Sterling Saturday.
The Maroons led 28-0 early and were up 42-6 early in the third quarter.
James Brown scored four touchdowns on the ground, while Justin Brilinski hit Devon Harris for scores three other times.
Menominee, which ended the 32-year career of retiring Standish-Sterling coach Paul Walderzak, will play Muskegon Oakridge in the 4 p.m. semifinal at the Dome.
In Division 6, Negaunee's bid ended in mid-Michigan. Though Negaunee had a 28-20 lead midway through the second quarter on the strength of multiple big plays from All-U.P. tailback Tyler LaJoie, the Ithaca Yellowjackets ran away from there, scoring 39 straight points to win their regional final 62-34 and extend their winning streak to 54 consecutive games, including the last three state championships in this division, the longest active streak in the country and second-longest in state history.
LaJoie had a 16-yard TD run, a kickoff return for a TD and an interception return for a TD in the game's first 10 minutes, but the Miners could only hold back the Yellowjackets for so long, as Travis Smith completed 24-of-40 passes for 413 yards and five touchdowns.
Rapid River will play for the 8-man state championship on Friday after putting away Kinde North Huron 40-8.
Jake Pearson, the U.P. Small School Offensive Player of the Year, scored the Rockets' first five touchdowns, throwing for two and running for three. He finished with 37 carries for 359 yards.
The Rockets (12-0) will play Peck at 7 p.m. Friday night in Greenville (near Grand Rapids). The game will air on tape delay on Fox Sports Detroit.