For the first time in 16 years, the Atlanta football team is going to the playoffs.
Atlanta was one of five Northeast Michigan teams to earn a playoff berth when the pairings were announced on Sunday and was one of six Class D teams to earn an at-large berth with a 5-4 record.
In the Division 8 playoffs, the Huskies will play at Johannesburg-Lewiston, Hillman will play at St. Ignace and Mio will play at Beal City. In Division 8, Alcona will host McBain at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and in the 8-man bracket, Posen will play at Rapid River.
Dates and times for the games will be announced today.
The Huskies started the year 0-3, but rebounded with a 5-1 finish that gave them their first winning record since 2002 and their first trip to the playoffs since 1997.
"We're excited. We had the team together to watch the show and everybody's in high spirits," Atlanta coach Troy Cheedie said.
Area playoff matchups
Posen at Rapid River
McBain at Alcona, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Atlanta at Johannesburg-Lewiston
Hillman at St. Ignace
Mio at Beal City
Other times and dates to be announced today
Atlanta was in prime position for a playoff spot last year, but ended up forfeiting several games and fell short.
"It means a lot. We were hoping to do it last year and we ended up having those games taken away," Cheedie said. "This year the guys came in with that same attitude of 'Yes, we want to make the playoffs.'"
After cruising through the regular season, Alcona (9-0) earned its second straight playoff berth after a 12-year absence. The Tigers' double-overtime win over Whittemore-Prescott in Week 5 put them in good position to host a playoff game and they'll do so later this week.
"We're just happy. That's the benefit of being 9-0 is you draw that fourth team in the district," Alcona coach Dave Schneider said. "We're excited about the chance to play at home and we knew that in going 9-0 that this could happen."
Alcona may get a return matchup with the Cardinals as they play Lake City on the other side of the district bracket.
Mio (7-2) is no stranger to Beal City having matched up against the Aggies last year in a pre-district game that ended with a 62-0 loss. The Aggies haven't missed a step this season and entered the season as a state title favorite after finishing runner-up last season.
"We sure don't have to wonder who they are or what they got," Mio coach Jim Gendernalik said. "We just finished playing a team that runs a full house like they do and we've got to do some waking up here."
Hillman clinched its eighth straight playoff spot and, like Atlanta, was one of the six Class D teams to gain an at-large spot. After starting 3-1, the Tigers (5-4) stumbled and came up with just enough wins to qualify.
"I was a little nervous, but we're pretty excited about it," Hillman coach Bill Koenig said. "Every year is an opportunity to move beyond the first round. There's a lot of talent on this team and luckily it came together for five wins."
Despite struggling with injuries for a good portion of the season, the Vikings (4-5) earned a spot in the 16-team 8-man playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Unfortunately, Posen's draw comes against the Rockets who are a state-title contender and already earned a 62-26 win over the Vikings earlier this season.
Posen suited up just 12 players for last Friday's game against Owendale-Gagetown and is still dealing with some injuries to key players, but the Vikings are going to give it their best shot.
"It's a mixed bag. You've made it, but we drew probably the No. 1 team in the state," Posen coach Wayne Karsten said of making the playoffs. "But you might as well play the best if you're going to get there."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.