Saline's eight-game winning streak to end the season didn't count for much when the MHSAA determined its football playoff bracket.
The Hornets, 8-1, didn't even get a home game out of it. In fact, they're the only 8-1 in Division 1 to start the playoffs on the road. They'll visit Belleville, 9-0, on Saturday. Kickoff is at noon.
It's an admitted tough draw. But coach Joe Palka and the Hornets aren't complaining.
"We're excited about the challenge. In most polls I see and things I hear, Belleville is the number one team in the state. Great athletes. Coach (Jermain) Crowell has done a great job there," Palka said. "It's probably the biggest challenge we could ask for. You could always hope to see them maybe in a later round, but you're going to have to play a team like that sooner or later. So, getting them right away? Heck of a challenge. But our kids will be up for it."
The winner of the Saline-Belleville game will face the winner of the Woodhaven-Pioneer game. Pioneer got into the playoffs with a 5-4 record. Woodhaven, like Belleville, was 9-0.
"That's a pretty tough district. It is what it is. I always say that, a lot of times, it has to do with the draw," Palka said.
Last year, the Hornets rode a west-side-heavy draw all the way to the final four.
If Saline can survive their tough district, they'll be in a region with Plymouth (8-1), West Bloomfield (8-1), Canton (5-4) and Lakeland (7-2). The regional champ will face the champion of Region 1, which is composed of west-side teams, Brighton and Holt.
Saline has a 4-0 record against Belleville since 1950. The Hornets last played Belleville in 2016, winning 38-7. Saline also bested Belleville, 35-3, in 2013. Both were playoff games.
But since that 2016 loss to Saline, the Tigers haven't lost a regular season game. Last year, the Tigers made it to the semifinal before losing to the state champs from Chippewa Valley.