ESCANABA - Playoff fever is about hit this area as the North Central Jets and Rapid River Rockets host opening-round football games this weekend.
North Central (7-2) faces Munising (6-3) in a Division 8 contest Friday at 7 p.m. (EDT) and Rapid River (9-0) entertains Posen (4-5) in an eight-man game Friday or Saturday, time will be posted tonight.
The Jets won 14-12 at Munising in their regular-season meeting on Sept. 6.
"They (Munising) are a very good team and they're very well coached," said Jets' coach Kevin Bellefueuil. "They started 0-3, then they beat some of the teams we beat by similar scores. The teams are pretty evenly matched."
This marks the first time the Jets will host a playoff game.
"This is real exciting for our program," said Bellefeuil. "This is a big deal for us. The kids are excited. We hope the community is as excited as we are. There are a lot of exciting things going on at North Central, with the boys winning the U.P. (Division 3) cross country championship for the first time and the girls having their best volleyball season ever. The girls are excited about their chances to play (in the Class D district), too. The guys are eager to get back onto the field and see what's going to happen. We can't wait for Friday night."
Pickford (6-3) travels to North Dickinson (6-2) for another D-8 contest set for Friday at 7, with the winner facing North Central or Munising in a district final Nov. 8 or 9.
"I don't know anything about this particular Pickford team, but both teams are very well coached," said Bellefeuil. "I think that's going to be a very competitive game."
The Jets hope to make amends for last year's playoff opener at St. Ignace, where they dropped a 62-0 decision.
"Even though things didn't go our way last year, the guys won't be like deer caught in headlights," said Bellefeuil. "I think we learned a lot from that game. Not having to travel is also a plus."
Rapid River will open its post-season at home for the third straight time.
"It's always an honor to get into the playoffs," said Rockets' coach Steve Ostrenga. "This is absolutely a very exciting time for the school and community. The whole team will really be fired up. Playing at home is a plus for us. In a small school, it's nice to keep football going."
The Rockets beat Posen 62-26 in a regular-season game on Sept. 5.
Ostrenga, however, says the final score was a little misleading.
"It was 14-14 in the second quarter," he added. "They have a senior quarterback who's pretty well put together. They also have a big fullback and two good running backs. Their quarterback is pretty hard to take down. They have put up some big numbers. They're a quality football team."
Rapid River senior Lucas Bero re-injured his ankle in Friday's 74-42 triumph at Bellaire and is questionable for Friday.
Engadine (5-4) visits Cedarville (8-1) in another eight-man opener on a day and time yet to be determined. The winner meets Rapid River or Posen in a regional title contest Nov. 8 or 9.
"That will be another quality ball game," said Ostrenga. "Engadine has been coming on and Cedarville has been real consistent. I think you're going to see some quality football."
In other games involving U.P. teams, Marquette (5-3) travels to Midland (8-1) Saturday for a 1 p.m. contest in D-2, and Sault Ste. Marie (6-3) hosts Ionia (7-2) in its D-3 opener which is tentatively set for Saturday.
In D-5, Menominee (9-0) hosts Houghton (6-3) Saturday at 2 and Kingsford (7-2) visits Grayling (8-1) Friday at 7.
Negaunee (8-1), the U.P's lone representative in D-6, hosts Indian River Inland Lakes (6-3) Saturday at 1.
West Iron County (9-0) hosts Traverse City St. Francis (5-4) Friday at 7 in D-7, and defending state champ Ishpeming (9-0) hosts Mancelona Saturday at 1.
In other D-8 games, all scheduled for Friday at 7, Gogebic (6-3) heads to Forest Park (9-0), Lake Linden-Hubbell (5-4) goes to L'Anse (7-2) and St. Ignace (7-2) hosts Hillman (5-4).