HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) -Three season ago, the Houghton Football program welcomed in a new era, hiring Micah Stipech as their head football coach.
“Three years ago we set kind of a five year plan,” said Micah Stipech, the head coach for the Gremlins. “We’ve had three seasons in a row now where we’ve won more than we’ve lost and it’s been a while since that happened.”
Part of the plan was finding a new team identity. That identity has become more clear this season.
“We’ve opened it up a little bit more this year,” said Stipech. “We’re more of a spread team. We have a quarterback who is talented and some guys that can run and that’s been a benefit for us on offense this year.”
Houghton reached a big milestone this season, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“It’s a huge step for us,” said Stipech. “It’s been something we’ve been working for the last three years. It’s encouraging for everyone in our community, our alumni, and our school is really excited about this.”
“That was all of our goal was to make it to the playoffs,” said Gaborik Carlson, a senior receiver and safety for the Gremlins. “Obviously its been such a long time and all the guys worked hard in the offseason and they’re very excited.”
“It’s a wonderful opportunity and not a lot of teams get to play in the postseason,” said Ryan Schmierer, a senior tackle and defensive end for the Gremlins. “It’s the first time in a while that we’ve been able to play, and all the boys are really excited to play.”
The Gremlin’s first taste of playoff football in almost a decade will come against the #1 ranked team in the UP: the 9-0 Negaunee Miners.
“We’re playing a team this weekend where we want to be like them,” said Stipech. “We want to become a program that is expected to make a deep run every year. This is an opportunity for us to be matched up with a team like that.”
“All the guys are very excited because the last time we played them we got our butts kicked,” said Carlson. “A lot of guys were hurt so a lot of the guys are really excited to play them.”
“We know Negaunee’s a good team and we’re ready to play,” said Schmierer. “We’re ready to come out and shock some people.”
The opportunity to play a team like Negaunee will go a long way towards reaching their goal.
“Part of it is the six inches between your ears and for us to view ourselves as a football school,” said Stipech. “View ourselves as a program that can do good things, that expects to win, that expects to go out on the field and dominate and do those things. Part of that is through experience and that confidence is built through experience and making the playoffs and how we play Friday is part of that.”
And no matter the final score Friday night, Stipech says this year’s team has helped push the program forward for future success.
“We really care about these kids and we’re really proud of them,” said Stipech. “It’s a great group and we believe in them and however it turns out Friday doesn’t change that. We’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years as a community and as a school and we’re just really proud of them.”
The game between Houghton and Negaunee will kickoff at Miner Stadium this Friday night at 6ct/7et.