Four schools awaiting football fates

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It’s the start of a long day for coaches awaiting their playoff fates today.

“As coaches, we usually bring in the kids (Saturday), watch film and lift (weights) and we’re back at it at 6 in the morning on Sunday,” Fowlerville coach Bret Shrader said. “We won’t be able to do that this weekend, because we don’t know who we play. So we’re going to enjoy (today), see who we’re going up against and get to work. It’s going to be a long Sunday night.”

But it’s a happy price to pay for the opportunity to get into the playoffs.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association will announce the playoff brackets in eight divisions, plus the 8-man football field, on Fox Sports Detroit beginning at 7 p.m.

Most years, Division 8 is the first one announced, meaning schools in Division 1 learn their opponents much closer to 8 p.m.

Three Livingston County schools — Brighton, Fowlerville and Pinckney — earned automatic spots by winning at least six games. All three were 7-2 during the regular season.

The playoff field contains 256 teams, and in every year so far, there have not been enough automatic qualifiers to fill the field.

That leaves room for teams with five wins to make the field, and that’s where Howell sits.

The Highlanders got in last year with a 5-4 mark, and coach Aaron Metz believes his team will get into the field.

“We’re going to come in (today) at 5 p.m. and lift some weights,” Metz said of his team. “Then we’ll have a meal together, then watch the selection show in the lobby of the field house. Just make it a team deal and get some work done at the same time.”

Guessing who goes where in the brackets is a favorite pastime of fans, media and most than a few players.

But after a season in which Sundays are sacrificed for preparing for the next week’s opponent, most coaches weren’t going to get caught up in speculation.

“For me, it’s an enjoy-the-weekend type of thing,” Pinckney coach Jakob Gailitis said. “You put so much work into it and to try and play the game of trying to figure out what the MHSAA is thinking is fun for a little bit. I try it for a little bit, but I try not to take it too seriously, because there’s not too much we can do about it. We’re going to enjoy the weekend and enjoy an incredible season by our kids.”

That doesn’t mean we won’t indulge: Here are possible Division 1 matchups.

Here are possible Division 2 matchups.

Here are possible Division 3 matchups.

The Pirates, as will Brighton and Fowlerville, also will gather as a team to watch the selection show.

The playoff field, as mentioned is 256 teams. The field is then divided into eight divisions by enrollment.

Brighton and Howell will be in Division 1, Pinckney in Division 2, and Fowlerville in Division 3 or 4, depending on where the dividing line falls.

Brighton, Pinckney and Fowlerville all could play host to first-round games, while Howell will almost certainly begin its playoff journey on the road.

For Shrader, whose Gladiators are in the playoffs for the first time in his six seasons as coach, the postseason is an accomplishment and a relief at the same time.

“It’s been a journey the last six years here,” he said. “I’m so proud of our players. Our assistant coches are phenomenal. I couldn’t do it without them .They’re in it for the right reasons, and they work extremely hard. They deserve a lot of the credit here, along with the players.

“You get so wrapped up, so involved, and it kind of consumes you. But I love the process of it, each and every week. Football’s unique that way. You start over every week. Start over on Sunday, and you don’t get a game until the next Friday.”

And, at this time of the season, every extra Sunday means a team has earned an extra Friday.