STEPHENSON — The Stephenson football team is on the outside looking in for the playoffs after last week’s 20-8 loss to Ontonagon, but there’s still a chance to clinch a berth.

The Eagles (4-3) are facing a must-win game on Friday when they travel to North Dickinson (0-7) and the team has looked much better in practice this week, according to coach Logan Carlson.

“I’m very proud of how the guys have responded in practice this week,” he said. “They haven’t gotten down on themselves and that’s easy to do when you lose two straight like we have. They’ve all stepped it up and they’re ready to compete this week.”

It’s been a long time since Stephenson has beaten the Nordics in a road game, but that’s just added fuel to the fire for the players.

“We haven’t won at North Dickinson in a very long time,” Carlson said. “It’s been 20-plus years so that makes this game even more important to the kids. They know what’s on the line and they’re ready to go.”

While they haven’t won a game, North Dickinson has been in almost every game this season so the Eagles will have to be ready for the smash-mouthed physical Nordics when it comes to game-time on Friday.

“Last week we came off the bus flat,” Carlson said. “We picked it up at the end but it was a little too late. We can’t have that this week and the kids know that. North Dickinson is a good, young football team. They’re physical and we need to match that physicality.”

Stephenson has been a little dinged up in the past few weeks, but some of the younger players that Carlson has had to call up have been playing well and filling in those spots nicely while the seniors have stayed strong and been leaders for the young players, he said. 

“Last week, our seniors were disappointed that they couldn’t get a win for them and our younger players,” Carlson said. “That was a game they wanted because it would have taken some pressure off the last two games of the year. Now, we’re facing must-wins in our last two to make the playoffs. We’ve been injured and when you have guys that are hurt it’s easy for the kids to give up, but nobody has done that. We’ve had younger guys step up.

“This is a great group of kids, they want to play for each other. We just have to find a way to put everything together and play a complete game.”

Tyrone Miller was Stephenson’s Player of the Week in last week’s game. He was in the backfield consistently and did a nice job of shedding his blocks and getting to a spot, his coach said. 

Reid Delaurelle was Outstanding Lineman of the Week. He, along with Miller, was always in the backfield and made good blocks and plays for his team.

“Those two never quit for us last week,” Carlson said. “They played hard all game and they really deserve those two awards. I’m proud of how they have played in the absence of our other guys.”