Atlanta returns to playoffs; Hillman, Alcona, Oscoda earn postseason spots

One year has a made a world of difference for the Atlanta football team.

In their first season of eight-man football, the Huskies finished with a winning record and found out on Sunday they’ll be returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Atlanta (5-4) was one of four teams to earn a postseason berth on Selection Sunday as Hillman and Alcona earned berths in Division 8 and Oscoda earned a Division 7 playoff spot.

In the Division 2 eight-man playoffs, Atlanta will play at Pickford. In Division 8, Alcona will host Johannesburg-Lewiston and Hillman will play at Au Gres. In Division 7, Oscoda will play at Breckenridge.

Dates and times for the games will be announced today.

A lot has changed in Atlanta since the Huskies last made the playoffs. Between 2014 and 2016, the Huskies went 1-24 and were winless in 2015 and 2016. This season, the Huskies got a chance to prove themselves on a level playing field by joining the eight-man ranks and fared well, going 5-4. Atlanta also rose up in crunch time, winning its final two games just to qualify for the playoffs.

“It feels good. The guys put in a lot of hard work this year and it paid off. The transition (to eight-man) has been great for us and it created some competition among the guys for spots,” Atlanta coach Troy Cheedie said. “Pickford is tough, but we’re going to be as prepared as we can be for them.”

Alcona (6-2) returns to the playoffs for the fifth time in six years and will play Johannesburg-Lewiston which has missed the playoffs just twice since 2009. The Tigers are 7-3 all-time against Joburg and lost the most recent matchup in 2015, 48-22.

“This team set that goal this year to make the playoffs and now that they’ve achieved it, they’re pretty excited and ready to go,” Alcona coach Jason Somers said. “We know when we face Joburg we’ll kind of be facing a mirror image of what we do. We know they work hard and we’re not taking anything for granted.”

Hillman (5-4) earned a playoff spot for the 12th consecutive year and finished the season on a 5-1 tear to qualify for the postseason in its final year of 11-man football. The Tigers will begin playing as an eight-man team next season, but until then they’re eager to win their first playoff game since 2007 and keep winning for coach Bill Koenig, who is coaching his final season with Hillman.

Au Gres beat Hillman 50-14 last month and Koenig said the Tigers will have to play better this time around.

“It does (mean a lot). I’m glad we kept the streak going. The boys stepped up big and played hard for me during the year and played their hearts out,” Koenig said. “Au Gres is probably the best team we’ve played all year and we have to come out and play them a lot better than we did the first time.”

Oscoda (6-3) earned a playoff spot for the first time since 2015 and will be playing Breckenridge for the first time. The Owls will be seeking their first playoff win since 2000.