Iron Mountain applies to join the West-PAC

Negaunee’s Jake Hill, left, tackles Iron Mountain’s Drew DuShane Friday evening, Sept. 15, 2017, at Negaunee High School’s football field. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Iron Mountain High School could be playing athletic events as far away as Ironwood after the school applied to join the West-PAC.

A decision could come by Oct. 18, athletic director Joe Pontbriand said. Pontbriand said the West PAC will be meeting Oct. 16 to determine whether Iron Mountain’s application will be accepted.

He said several other Mid-Peninsula Conference schools have also applied to join the West PAC. With those kinds of numbers, he expects there will be a realignment.

“Where that will put us geographically and travel-wise, I don’t know,” Pontbriand said. “We will have to see who else has applied and been accepted by the West PAC.”

Pontbriand said Norway-Vulcan Area Schools was accepted into the West-PAC conference and in 2018 will be added to the football teams in the conference. Bark River-Harris and Lake Linden-Hubbell were also added to the league for football next year.

Munising, initially rejected for the football-only portion of the West-PAC, has now been accepted, according to West Iron County athletic director and football coach Mike Berutti.

Pontbriand added that the process to change conferences at Iron Mountain began in discussions with the athletic committee before receiving school board approval at the Sept. 11 meeting.

“It’s just an application,” Pontbriand said. “We still have the right to deny or accept it.”

He added that when making application, they had to apply for all sports and, if accepted, membership in the West PAC would be for all sports offered by Iron Mountain. The main concerns he’s heard have been in regards to travel and mileage.

“That’s the biggest negative, but we won’t know what area we would be in until the conference is realigned,” Pontbriand said.

He said there are only 23 schools in the Upper Peninsula left in 11-player football.

“Depending on alignment, we could go as far as Lake Linden-Hubbell and Ironwood,” he said.

Pontbriand said five other schools are also applying for a move to the West PAC from the MPC.

“It’s five core schools in the Mid Pen that could potentially be in the West-PAC and we fall somewhere in the middle,” Pontbriand said. “How many that are in will determine that conference.”

The other West PAC football teams are West Iron County, Hurley, Wis., L’Anse, Calumet, Houghton, Hancock, Gogebic co-op with Wakefield-Marenisco and Ironwood, and Northland Pines in Eagle River, Wis.