TRAVERSE CITY — Forget the fact Mancelona's won 24 regular season games in a row.
Forget the fact the Ironmen (7-0) will be overwhelming favorites to close out the regular season with wins over Forest Area (1-6) and Inland Lakes (3-4).
That's nice. But what's more important to Mancelona football coach Dan Derrer is that his players keep striving to improve.
"We can't worry about who we're playing," Derrer said. "I don't care if they've got six wins or one win, we need to focus on us — on getting better each week. I don't care about the score. I just want us to get better."
Mancelona is one of four unbeaten teams in the Grand Traverse region. Northwest Conference champion Glen Lake and Lake Michigan Conference co-leaders Grayling and Boyne City are the others.
Boyne City and Glen Lake have the toughest tasks the next two games. The Ramblers travel to upset-minded Elk Rapids tonight — the Elks are a good 4-3 team — and then host Grayling in the regular season finale.
Glen Lake hosts perennial power St. Francis tonight, then finishes on the road at improving North Muskegon (4-3).
Mancelona's last regular season loss came in the 2010 season opener to Elk Rapids. That Elks team ran the table in the regular season.
"We have some talented kids, who work hard and play well together," Derrer said. "They don't care about individual stats. They just want to win.
"They've always been that way. They've been successful at every level, starting in Pop Warner. These seniors, I think, were undefeated in middle school. They did not lose a game on JV. So far, they haven't lost a regular season game since they've been on varsity, either.
"A lot of them played on the baseball team that went to the Final Four (last spring). It's a good group."
Although the Ironmen will be heavily favored to stretch their streak to 26 games, Derrer said there is still a lot at stake, namely playoff points.
"These games are very important," he said. "It looks like we're going to be in the same district with Ishpeming. As of right now, we've moved ahead of them in points, but just by a little. To stay there, we are going to need a few things to happen."
Mancelona has reached the district finals the last two seasons, but came away empty-handed both times.
"It's been a goal of ours all along to win a district," Derrer said. "We're just trying to get over that hump."
Grayling is looking for its first unbeaten regular season in school history. League rival Boyne City is seeking its first since 2001. Since they play next week, only one has a chance to end that streak.
Grayling faces East Jordan (0-7) tonight before the finale at Boyne City.
"The town's talking about that, my friends are calling me up and saying things (about it), but for us, we have to stay focused," Vikings coach Tim Sanchez said of the showdown with the Ramblers. "It's homecoming week for us, so we're already battling staying focused with those distractions. East Jordan, they haven't won a game yet, but they've got some athletes. Of all the teams they've played all year, we're the team they match up well against. They run the same offense as we do, so they see it every day in practice. We know we're going to have to stay on top of our game to execute (tonight)."
Grayling was in a similar position last year, heading into Week 9 with an 8-0 record. However, the Vikings were turned back with a 20-19 loss to St. Francis.
With so many seniors on last year's squad, making another run at an unbeaten regular season wasn't the mindset at the start of the year.
"Every year your goal is to win every game, but with this crew, we were so young that we literally were taking it one game at a time, one practice at a time to get better," Sanchez said. "Now, that looks like a goal for us, but at the beginning of the year, it was just to beat Roscommon. And then to beat Houghton Lake."
Like Boyne City, Glen Lake is seeking its first unbeaten regular season since 2001.
Last week's 15-12 win over Frankfort brought that to coach Jerry Angers attention. The last time the Lakers had beaten Frankfort was 2001.
"Everything goes back to 2001," Angers said. "I was talking to (former Lakers coach) Bill Hollenbeck the other day. Bill built that program and I'm hoping we can do as much with it as he did. Eventually, I hope we can get to where his teams were. It's been a good measuring stick for us. We've looked at what they did and we're trying to mirror it."
As it turns out, Glen Lake's schedule was backloaded this season. The Lakers first five opponents are a combined 4-31. Then came Kingsley and Frankfort, and now St. Francis and North Muskegon.
"We knew the last four were going to be a war," Angers said. "Hey, what better way to get ready for the playoffs."
Angers attributes his team's success to teamwork.
"Everybody believes in the system as well as each other," he said. "We don't have any one kid standing tall. They continue to work together because they have a common goal. That's to win football games."
Mancelona riding 24-game regular season win streak
TRAVERSE CITY — Forget the fact Mancelona's won 24 regular season games in a row.
Sports in Brief: TC's Johnson picked up by Twins
The Minnesota Twins purchased the contract of Traverse City Beach Bums All-Star closer D.J. Johnson, signing him to a two-year deal. The Twins will be the third affiliated organization for Johnson. (Plus more)Continued ...
New website is a trail-blazer
A new interactive website will provide outdoor enthusiasts a one-stop user’s guide to 5,300 miles of trails across Michigan's northern lower peninsula.Continued ...
MacMaster won't have mother's vote
State Senate candidate Greg MacMaster gained endorsements from political officials in his opponent's hometown, including Traverse city's mayor, but primary foe Wayne Schmidt swiped a different sort of political prize: support from MacMaster's mother.Continued ...
UPDATE: Authorities continue to investigate homeless man's death
Traverse City police are awaiting toxicology reports to see if drugs or alcohol factored in a local homeless man's death.Continued ...
Three Republicans hope to represent Antrim County in Lansing
A teacher, a handyman and a semi-truck driver all want to be the Republican candidate for Michigan’s 105th House seat.Continued ...
Students present research findings at National Air and Space Museum
Three Traverse City West Senior High School students took a trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., but it wasn't just to see the sights.Continued ...
NMC could lease Shadowland Motel
Northwestern Michigan College officials will discuss a plan to increase student housing by leasing a local motel.Continued ...
Sheriff's deputies warn of fraudulent law enforcement calls
Grand Traverse County sheriff's officials are asking residents to call authorities if they receive phone calls from someone stating they missed jury duty and must pay a fine or face arrest.Continued ...
Triebold, LaJoie still the team to beat in Au Sable race
Can anyone seriously challenge the defending champs? That’s the biggest question going into the 67th annual Au Sable River Canoe Marathon race Saturday evening.Continued ...
2014 All-Region Girls Track Team
The Traverse City Record-Eagle's picks for the 2014 All-Region Girls Track team:Continued ...
2014 All-Region Boys Track Team
The Traverse City Record-Eagle's picks for the 2014 All-Region Boys Track team:Continued ...
Embezzlement from Park Place Hotel suspected
Police are investigating an embezzlement complaint at the Park Place Hotel.Continued ...
Letters to the Editor: 07/26/2014
Are shoppers safer?; No info monopoly.Continued ...
Education Newsmakers: 07/26/2014
Jared Ornelas, of Lake Leelanau, was named to the Dean’s List at Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste. Marie, for spring semester 2014. (Plus more)Continued ...
New street magazine helps homeless
Randy Parcher has lived in a van with his girlfriend for three years. He helps support the couple by day selling his art work, which he creates at public spaces like the library or coffee house. He burrows down in a pile of blankets at night and relies on body heat to stay warm.Continued ...
Body & Soul in Brief: 07/26/2014
Arcadia Daze luncheon; Grief workshops; Church histories. (Plus more)Continued ...
Blood Drive Calendar: 07/26/2014
Area Blood Drives: American Red Cross - Gaylord, 10 a.m.-3:45 p.m., July 30, F.O.E. Eagles Club, 515 S. Wisconsin Ave. (Plus more)Continued ...
Homeless man identified
Traverse City police released the name of a local homeless man whose death is under investigation. Robert Lee Howard, Jr., 62, died Thursday in the emergency room at Munson Medical Center.Continued ...
Leelanau County meth lab discovered, investigation continues
A Cedar man and Suttons Bay woman were arrested for maintaining a drug house in Centerville Township, the first meth lab found in the county, Leelanau County Sheriff Michael Borkovich said.Continued ...
Authorities investigate overdose death
Traverse City police are investigating the death of a homeless man who investigators considered a witness in the recent beating death of another homeless man.Continued ...
E. coli levels back down
It's safe to swim again. Bacteria levels at four Grand Traverse Bay beaches are back down after they elevated briefly on Wednesday.Continued ...
Ag Forum: Rebuilding 'foodshed' and community resilience
In my previous life as a reporter for the Record-Eagle from 1986 to 1998, I remember reporting on two words that were new to me at the time.Continued ...
Community in Brief: 07/25/2014
Christmas in July; Artist’s reception; Solar viewing party. (Plus more)Continued ...
Bums fall in slugfest
With 21 runs scored on 28 hits, it was not an easy night for the 10 pitchers who took the mound for Thursday’s game between Traverse City and host Schaumburg.Continued ...
Sports in Brief: Registration taking place for football, soccer
Registration has begun for YMCA Flag Football and YMCA Coed youth soccer. (Plus more)Continued ...
- Sports in Brief: TC's Johnson picked up by Twins