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Welcome to football season

August 14, 2011
Matt Wellens - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

I was kicking myself last Sunday night as I drove down U.S. 41 toward West Ishpeming with Mining Journal photographer Danielle Pemble.

Only hours earlier, I had just arrived back in the Upper Peninsula from a weekend bachelor party in Grand Rapids for another college roommate who will be walking down the isle soon, putting my buddy Joe and I in the minority as single men.

Now I was back in the car heading to a midnight prep football practice, which sounded like a good idea back on the previous Thursday when I decided I would cover the event.

Article Photos

Matt Wellens

After being up until 4 a.m. on Sunday and having just driven seven hours on only a few hours of sleep, covering a football practice at midnight was no longer appealing. My bed was the only place I wanted to be.

Then Mrs. Pemble and I pulled into the Westwood High School parking lot and the sight quickly woke us up.

It was packed.

This is not how they do Midnight Madness in Wisconsin.

Westwood High School put on quite a show when the clock struck midnight Monday to start the 2011 high school football season.

I expected to find the Patriots' football team and coaching staff under the lights, as well as my other colleagues in the media. What I didn't expect was concessions, the Westwood dance team and around 200 fans cheering the Patriots on.

It was like Green Bay Packers' training camp, but on a smaller, more rural, level.

The environment not only woke me up, but helped build my excitement for football season.

In the following days, I stopped by Negaunee High School and took in a couple Miners' practices.

On Thursday, I began my daily visits to Northern Michigan University football practices outside the Superior Dome - and inside Friday due to some lightning.

My football practice tour was supposed to come full circle on Friday with a visit to the Packers' training camp, but that practice was canceled due to the team having another appointment with a friend of Marquette in Washington, D.C.

I still can't believe the Packers gave a share of stock to a Bears fan like President Obama, but I'll get over it with a win at Solider Field on Sept. 25.

After a day off Saturday to over-analyze a Packers preseason game against the host Cleveland Browns with a bottle of Spotted Cow, I'll be back at NMU football practice today.

A trip to Eben is also on my schedule to check out Superior Central High School's growing eight-man football program.

Today also marks the beginning of the Mining Journal's "10 Days of Football," previewing Superiorland's high school football programs.

We start with the state Division 7 runners-up from Ishpeming on page 8B today and wrap up with Manistique and Newberry on Aug. 23.

It's like Christmas for high school football fans. One of the Mining Journal ad reps even wrote a carol for the occasion, but it was a little too violent for our family newspaper.

Let's just say the Steelers' James Harrison would have loved it and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would have fined him for the song.

We're not all about high school football, though. The Wildcats will get plenty of love, as well, leading to their 2011 opener at the Superior Dome on Sept. 1 against Minnesota State-Mankato. Besides the multiple preseason practice reports online at and player profiles in print, I'll have my complete 2011 season preview on Sunday, Aug. 28.

We'll try and keep you up to date on the Packers and Lions as well, as both teams and fan bases have high hopes for 2011.

So sit back and enjoy the return of football season with me.

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays are about to get much more enjoyable.

I just wish I knew what to do with myself on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this fall.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is



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