Rough Stretch, Lessons Learned Pay Off with Flat Rock's 1st Playoff Win Since 1976
By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com
November 8, 2022
FLAT ROCK – On July 31, Flat Rock football players Corey Lannon and Graham Junge were on the football field when they noticed a soccer player kicking the ball.
Lannon grabbed his phone and texted Flat Rock head coach Buck Reaume about what he saw.
“He said, ‘We need to get this guy on the team,’” Reaume said.
On Friday night, with a Division 5 District championship on the line, Flat Rock’s Mitchell Smith booted a game-winning 23-yard field goal to give the Rams a 29-28 victory over Romulus Summit Academy North. It was not only Smith’s first field goal attempt in a game, but it was also the first field goal attempt in Reaume’s five years as Rams head coach.
“I never hesitated,” Reaume said of the decision to kick the field goal when Flat Rock trailed Summit 28-26 with 7.3 seconds left in the game. “It was the right call. Graham came over to the sidelines and said, ‘Let’s kick it.’ I had all the confidence in Mitchell.”
Confidence has been earned as Flat Rock is going through a fairy-tale season. Before this year, the Rams had never hosted a playoff game and hadn’t won a playoff game since the 1976 team won the Class C championship. At that time, the MHSAA Playoffs were just two rounds.
The 46-year postseason win drought ended in the first round of the playoffs with a 27-22 victory over Dundee. The District title gave the Rams eight wins, their most in a season since the 1976 team went 11-0.
“It’s almost like a magical season the way things have gone,” Reaume said. “In our last four games, we’ve won by a total of eight points. Three out of the four we won by one point. The last couple of games have been really high suspense, but we’ve come out on top. We’ve been on the other side of those kinds of games, too.”
Flat Rock was 3-3 after a 20-14 loss to Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central as they maneuvered through a rugged Huron League schedule. In two of those three losses, the game came down to the final play.
“We grew up and learned from those things,” Reaume said.
In Week 7, the Rams shut out Grosse Ile 28-0. Since then, the Rams have a 29-28 win over New Boston Huron, a 57-56 win over Livonia Clarenceville, and the victories over Dundee and Summit Academy.
This week, the Rams welcome Detroit Country Day for another home playoff game.
“The crowds have been amazing,” Reaume said. “We have a first-year assistant coach, and I told him that things aren’t always like this. It’s been crazy.”
Flat Rock’s success has been a long time coming.
Reaume is a former quarterback at Riverview Gabriel Richard. He coached at Southgate Anderson for 10 years before getting hired as a teacher at Flat Rock in 2013. He was an assistant coach one year before being named head coach. It came on the heels of back-to-back 0-9 seasons for Flat Rock.
“My thought process was things could only go up,” he said.
By his third year, Flat Rock reached the playoffs for the first time in nearly 30 years.
“That was a big deal,” he said.
After a 4-5 finish in 2019, COVID-19 shortened the Rams’ 2020 season to seven games. Flat Rock didn’t win any that fall, but the foundation for this year’s eight-win season was laid when Reaume and the coaching staff elevated several sophomores to the varsity.
"Our seniors are a great group of kids," Reaume said. "We had a lot of them up during that COVID-19 year, the shortened season. That group took our lumps. We got pounded that year.
“The idea was it was going to pay off down the road, and it has. There’s no quit in these guys. That benefited us.”
One of those seniors is Drew Given. Given, a wrestler in the winter, has been a running back for most of his time in the Flat Rock football system. When the season started, Reaume realized his team was going to be short on offensive linemen. He went to Given.
“I thought we would be good this year because of all of our skill guys,” Reaume said. “The line was a bit of a question though. We went to Drew before the season and asked if he was interested in moving to the line. Given never hesitated and is now a starting guard.
“His response was, ‘I’ll do anything you want. I just want to win,’” Reaume said. “He’s a good wrestler. He’s small. He is 5-(foot-)6, 170, but he’s tough. He’s a bulldog. That’s the epitome of this team. They don’t care what they need to do to help us win. It’s not always easy to find kids to do that.”
Reaume said his football players grew tired of settling for close losses and coming close. Flat Rock began last season 2-1 but finished 2-7, with late losses by two and eight points.
“For the past few years, there was a lot of moral victories,” Reaume said. “It would be like, ‘Hey, you won the second half,’ or ‘You played them tough.’ I told them this year that was no longer enough. Our seniors had heard that all of their sophomore and junior years. I think they were sick of that. There are no more moral victories. I think they bought into that.”
One of the big reasons for Flat Rock’s success has been the play of Junge, a sophomore. He was thrust into the Rams starting quarterback spot as a freshman last year when starting QB Aaron Salazar went out with a knee injury. Junge was impressive right away.
“He did everything we asked,” Reaume said. “He kept his poise and showed a lot of maturity. You could tell he had talent.”
Junge is a student of the game. He watches a lot of film and studies opponents before every game.
“It’s impressive,” Reaume said. “He has a lot of input. He’ll text me on Saturday or Sunday, saying, ‘Hey I like these plays.’ We’ll meet on Mondays and go over the plays we like, and he has a ton of input.
“He has a lot of leeway on the field. We’ll call the play, and he will make some adjustments. He’ll signal something to the guys. He makes a lot of good decisions.”
Junge has passed for a Monroe County Region record 2,528 yards and 28 touchdowns.
“I like watching film,” Junge said. “The cool thing about football is by watching film you can outsmart the defense.”
Salazar is another player who selflessly moved to a new position to help the team. The former starting quarterback is now Junge’s favorite target at wide receiver. Salazar has 72 receptions for 931 yards and nine touchdowns.
“He’s been incredible, coming off knee surgery and playing a position he hadn’t played in a couple of years,” Reaume said. “He’s been phenomenal at it.”
Lannon is second on the team in receptions (54) and yards (694).
“Nobody cares about numbers,” Reaume continued. “It’s a very selfless team. They only want to win.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Flat Rock quarterback-turned-receiver Aaron Salazar hauls in a pass during a season that’s seem him gain nearly 1,000 yards through the air. (Middle) Flat Rock coach Buck Reaume and his family celebrate the District title win. (Below) Rams quarterback Graham Junge has set his area’s record for passing yards. (Action photos by Dana Stiefel. Reaume family photo courtesy of Buck Reaume.)
MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 27, 2023
The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.
The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.
Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.
“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”
Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.
All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.
MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.
“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”
The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.