West Iron County’s first undefeated football team and its coaches stood for a team photo Oct. 25 after defeating Bark River-Harris 44-18 in their final regular season game at Harris. This Friday, Nov. 1, the Wykons host Traverse City St. Francis in the first game of the Division 7 playoffs at Nelson Field.
IRON RIVER—Don’t put away the signs yet. Keep the stadium blankets handy. Football season isn’t over yet. In Iron County, it could continue for much of November.
Last Friday night, at Bark River, West Iron County’s football team completed an achievement no Wykon team has ever done before. It finished its regular season unbeaten. Season record: 9-0.
Then, on Saturday afternoon at Lake Linden, Forest Park’s varsity team ran past the Lakes to complete its own unbeaten season. Season record: 9-0. It’s the Trojans’ first unbeaten regular season since … 2008 and many times before that.
Sunday evening, the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced its playoff assignments. Both West Iron (in Division 7) and Forest Park (in Division 8) are the top seeds in their four-team districts- and in their eight-team regions, as determined by playoff points.
It means both schools will have home field advantage through at least the first three rounds of playoffs. If the Wykons and Trojans keep winning, there will be up to six playoff games in Iron County over the next three weeks.
The playoffs continue through November. The state assigns playing sites for the semifinal games, and the state finals are played at Ford Field in Detroit on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.
How did West Iron get the top seed? First, they won all their games. Second, they defeated three Class B (enrollment) opponents, Houghton, Northland Pines and Hancock, along with four Class C’s and two Class D’s. Third, the Wykons defeated four playoff teams: Munising, L’Anse, Houghton and Northland Pines.
Forest Park used the same formula. Their nine wins included three over Class C teams (Norway, Hurley and the Gogebic co-op team) and six class D’s. They also defeated five playoff-bound opponents: Hurley (the Midgets’ only loss), North Central, North Dickinson, Gogebic and Lake Linden.
Both playoff games will be played at the same time: kicking off at 6 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 1: West Iron County hosts Traverse City St. Francis at Nelson Field and Forest Park hosts Gogebic at Dick Mettlach Field.
For the Wykons, their undefeated regular season is a first. The team has gone 8-1 several times: 2011, 2008, 1989, 1977 (when the Wykons reached the state finals) and 1974 (before the state playoff system started). West Iron was 6-1-1 in its first year, 1968.
Long before consolidaton, Iron River Redskin and Stambaugh Hilltopper teams also completed unbeaten seasons.
Forest Park knows all about going 9-0 in the regular season. The Trojans have done so in 2008, 2005, 2003, 1986, 1984, 1978 and 1977. In 2007, when the Trojans last won the state championship, they won all their regular season games but had to forfeit a 45-7 win over Bessemer for using an illegal player in the final minutes.
In 1975 and 1976, the Trojans won state championships but lost regular season games to Norway both years. And in 1970, before the playoff system started, Forest Park was an unbeaten 6-0-2, with a pair of 6-6 ties in consecutive weeks. After that, the Trojans must have found a kicker—they beat Ontonagon the next week 7-6.
Playoff fever for Wykons, Trojans, fans