ESCANABA It's official.
The MHSAA announced the matchups for the 2012 playoffs on Fox Sports Network (FSN) Detroit's "Selection Sunday Show" last night. Some of the games were to be expected, while other teams didn't know they were in until they saw the TV program with the rest of us.
The Eight-man team pairings came first. In Region 1, the Engadine Eagles (4-4) will square off against the Cedarville Trojans (9-0), while the Rapid River (7-2) Rockets host the Superior Central Cougars (6-2) in a rematch of week seven that the Rockets won 30-27.
"It was a close ball game the first time," said Rapid River coach Steve Ostrenga. "It could come down to which team is healthier on that day. We've got a few bumps and bruises, and I think they do too. It'll be a close game."
Jake Pearson, Rapid River's quarterback, is a huge part of their offensive scheme. Pearson twisted his ankle during the Rockets' loss to Bellaire on Friday night, but his coach thinks he will bounce back just fine.
"He's a tough guy," Ostrenga said. "Eli Orth played a tough fourth quarter for us in that game, so did Mike Boyer. They both got some good playing time."
In Region 2, the Kingston Cardinals (4-5) will face the Bellaire Eagles (6-3).
In Division 8, District 1, the Gogebic Miners (6-2) will head on the road to play the North Dickinson Nordics (8-0), and the L'Anse Purple Hornets host Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-2).
After falling to Stephenson on Friday, the North Central Jets (5-4) must have been pleasantly surprised to see they made the cut in District 2. They will certainly have their hands full against No. 1 seed St. Ignace (9-0), but coach Kevin Bellefeuil said they are going to head to the bridge and do the best they can, and regardless of the outcome they will head back to Powers with their heads held high.
"We aren't afraid to go out there and play," he said. "We know we are a big underdog, but we're going to go out there and see how the chips fall. We are going with every intent on playing a good, solid football game."
The Stephenson Eagles (7-2) will be heading to Pickford (7-2) in the other District 2 matchup.
The Negaunee Miners (8-1) will host Iron Mountain (5-4) in the first round of Division 6 action. These two went head to head in week two, and Negaunee put away the Mountaineers rather easily, winning 28-6.
The other Division 6 matchup will be the Manistique Emeralds (6-3) against the Calumet Copper Kings (6-3) in what could turn out to be quite a battle, as both teams have a lot of momentum heading into the contest.
Calumet dropped their first three games of the season before heating up and going on a six-game winning streak to clinch a playoff spot. On the other hand, the Manistique Emeralds won 12-6 in a nail-biting double overtime contest on Friday over Harbor Springs to continue their own winning streak.
"We've lost to a couple of the same teams," said Manistique coach Todd Kangas, "so it's set up to be a pretty good game. They've got home field advantage, and we have to take the long bus ride up there. I guess that gives them a little bit of an advantage. But we're excited to play them, either way."
In regards to the possibility of the emotional win rolling over into their next matchup, Kangas said he hopes it does.
"The win on Friday was big for us," he said. "Let's see what we can do in the playoffs."
In other U.P. football action, the Ishpeming Hematites (8-1) will host Lincoln-Alcona (6-2) in a matchup of two Division 7 powerhouses.
The official dates and times for all playoff games will be announced today on the MHSAA website.