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It's high school football playoff time

October 25, 2011 - Steve Murch
If there is one thing I miss from my days in sports (and there are a few), it's high school football — especially the playoffs. The first weekend of the playoffs is filled with the same anticipation as the first week of the season — but amped up on adrenaline. I don't think every team believes it can win a state title but I do believe they think they could win a district or regional title. And that is why the playoffs are so fun.

There is more at stake, but the dreams are bigger. Plus you go into the game knowing if you lose, you go home. Walking the sidelines during the playoffs is entirely different than during the regular season. The crowds are bigger and louder and the excitement is better.

I covered Mio during its run to a state runner-up in 1997. I remember several things about that tournament run, but one of the things that sticks with me is how Mio's coach Joe Stone never changed, which I think explains why the Thunderbolts were successful that year. Talking to him during the week was the same, and he'd carry on conversations with me and Al Emick from WBKB during the game, all the while keeping his focus on the field. There were plenty of coaches who wanted to lay one on Mio, but let their emotions get in the way during the years I was in sports. That helped Mio be a success, the coaches couldn't get out of their own way and believed Joe was running it up on them. Maybe, maybe not, but they were their own worst enemies for losing focus. Maybe Joe was just playing head games to make it easier on Mio.

The last several years Sports Editor Chris Dobrowolski and I have picked the state finals matchups, winners and losers. Some years we've had a large number of picks the same, others not so much. This year we have three games — Division 3 and Division 5 and 8-man — exactly the same. We also have one game with the same champion but different runner-up, and two games where one of us picked a champion and the other has them losing in the title game. Aside from that we are completely different. What do you expect, there are 256 teams to chose from.

I didn't choose Mancelona, my high school, to win it all. At least I have one up on Chris in that regard — Charlevoix didn't make the playoffs. The Ironmen are in a tough district with Whittemore-Prescott, Traverse City St. Francis and Lake City. A district title might be one of those goals I mentioned earlier.

The action is coming soon, so enjoy the games.


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