Each week here on the Cover 2, I like to look at a story about a team or a coach or a game and present it objectively. But this week, if you are so inclined to indulge me, I am going to hop on my soapbox for a bit.
The first UPSSA 11-player football poll came out this week. The high school’s of the top 2 teams in the poll are separated by 1.2 miles and a short drive down Kimberly Avenue. But those two teams will not play each other this season. #1 Kingsford and #2 Iron Mountain played every year from 1925 through 2017. The only U.P. rivalry longer was that of Marquette and Negaunee that went 123 years and also discontinued in 2018.
The reason of course for this was the changing landscape of 11-player football in the U.P. The Mid-Peninsula conference disbanded, the likes of Iron Mountain and Negaunee along with most other Mid-Pen schools joined the West-PAC, and the schedule was full between division opponents and mandatory crossover games. At the time, this was an unfortunate byproduct but ultimately made sense.
But now, with the landscape having changed even more, it no longer makes sense. We are losing, if we haven’t yet already lost, the spirit of why inter-scholastic sports began and evolved into something we treasure. It was about the group of kids, representing their school and their community to take on the school and community down the road or nearby. Kingsford and Iron Mountain didn’t start playing each other in football in 1925 because of playoff points. It’s always been about the schools and the communities the school’s represent coming together in the spirit of competition.
In Week 9, Kingsford and Marquette will play each other while Negaunee and Iron Mountain will play, both being non-conference games. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how we can bring something back that embodies what it’s all about. This is simply a plea to fight for the soul of what has always made high school football in the Upper Peninsula so great.
For more local sports coverage tune into the Sports Drive weekdays from 3-4 p.m. with Luke Ghiardi and Tyler Young on Fox Sports Marquette 105.1 – 99.9.