By RON DEUTER
IRON MOUNTAIN - Iron Mountain, the last team in at Division 6 in the MHSAA football playoffs, faces a Mid-Peninsula Conference rematch to open the postseason.
The Mountaineers (5-4) head to Negaunee (8-1) Friday night to battle the league champion Miners.
"I think they are a little different than when we played them the first time," Mountaineers coach Robin Marttila said, noting that all-conference standout Tyler LaJoie is now coming out of the backfield.
"He's a real good football player," Marttila said. "That changes some things around for us."
Iron Mountain last saw Negaunee in Week 4, losing 28-6 at Mountaineer Stadium. The Mountaineers lost running back Paul Brooks to an ankle injury midway through the contest and were without the services of all-conference performer Tony Ward.
"Negaunee is still an option football team," Marttila said. "We have to stop the option. They have some weapons on offense."
In addition to LaJoie, the Miners have all-conference stars in quarterback Tanner Uren, wide receiver Brock Weaver and fullback Dustin Goupille.
"They've got some playmakers we have to contend with," Marttila said. "The first we played them, they made more plays than we did, and they won the game.
"We're hoping for different things Friday night. It comes down to the kids have to make plays."
Negaunee's only loss this season came to Marquette (34-26) in Week 8. The Miners have outscored opponents 294-127. Only Ishpeming (324) scored more points in the league this season.
While Negaunee has known for a few weeks it would be in the playoffs, the Mountaineers only found out Sunday evening. And while the team didn't gather to watch the MHSAA selection show, it's been pretty much business as usual since realizing the season would continue.
"We got a game this week we want to win and we're trying to prepare for," Marttila said. "We're going to go out there Friday night and give it all we got, and if we play well and do some good things, we'll give our selves a chance to win."