After an undefeated regular season, the Saline football team glimpsed the road to Ford to Field.
The MHSAA released its playoff pairings Sunday night. The Hornets will begin by hosting Belleville, who went 7-2 and outscored their opponents 256-108. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., Friday.
The winner of the Saline-Belleville game will play the winner of the Canton (7-2)-Northville (7-2) game.
In the region’s other district, Cass Tech (9-0) hosts Dearborn Fordson (9-0) and Dearborn (8-1) hosts Livonia Stevenson (5-4).
Saline head coach Joe Palka isn’t looking past Belleville, but when asked he acknowledged it’s a very tough district and region.
“It’s a pretty impressive group. Every team in our district is 7-2 or better. You’ve also great teams, including a 9-0 Cass Tech team, in the other district,” Palka said. “It’s going to pretty darn tough. But if you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to play great teams anyway.”
For now, all of Saline’s attention is turned to Belleville.
“We’re never worried about anything but the next game. They’re athletic and fast and well-coached. I have a lot of respect for coach Jermain Crowell, who was the defensive coordinator at Cass Tech,” Palka said. “We’re going to start looking at film and get prepared.”
Saline has recent history with several teams in its region.
Since 1950, the Hornets are 3-0 against the Tigers. In 2013, Saline defeated Belleville, 35-3, in the pre-district game. Saline opened the 2010 season by defeated Belleville 17-14. In 2009, Saline opened by defeating Belleville 34-7.
Canton has defeated in three of four games since 1950. Last year, Canton defeated saline 27-7 in the regional. The year before, Saline beat Canton 42-35 in the regional. Canton defeated Saline 42-21 in the district championship. In 2006, Canton won the regional, 56-36.
The Hornets have faced Cass Tech twice in the Palka era. In 2012, Cass Tech beat Saline 21-14 in the regional. In 2014, Saline defeated Cass Tech 30-15 in the semifinal to advance to Ford Field for the first time.