Rough Stretch, Lessons Learned Pay Off with Flat Rock's 1st Playoff Win Since 1976

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

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.

Southeast & BorderLannon 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. 

Flat Rock coach Buck Reaume and his family celebrate the District title win. 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.

Rams quarterback Graham Junge has set his area’s record for passing yards. “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.)

Record-Setting Viney Gained Lifelong Confidence at Marine City

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

July 17, 2024

Olivia Viney didn’t have to look far for inspiration while taking on the challenge of applying to veterinary school.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosThe 2015 Marine City graduate and record-setting placekicker simply drew from her own experience as a high school athlete.

“It just really taught me that I could do hard things,” Viney said. “I was very involved when I was in school. I did soccer, theater, travel soccer and then football. Especially with football, I learned that if I put my mind to it, I can do it. That helped me to excel in undergrad. When it came time to get accepted to vet school, it was like, ‘This is what I have to do,’ and I did it. That was very confidence-building. It taught me that I really can do hard things.”

Viney, who graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 2019 and Michigan State Veterinary School in 2023, is now working as an associate veterinarian at Deporre Veterinary Hospital in West Bloomfield. 

Accomplishing her goals is nothing new to Viney, and not at all a surprise to those who watched her come through the Mariners athletic program.

“She was very serious, she was focused and she was dialed in,” said Dave Frendt, who coached Viney in both football and soccer at Marine City. “She knew what she wanted to accomplish, and she set out to do that. She was a fierce competitor and very driven. She was a good leader in that way where she was kind of feisty, but the team would follow that.”

Viney was an all-state soccer player for the Mariners, leading them to a pair of District titles and a Macomb Area Conference Gold title during her four years as a varsity player. It’s the sport she grew up playing, but the one she was most known for after graduation was football. American football.

The 5-foot-1-ish center attacking midfielder found herself in the MHSAA football record book after hitting all seven of her extra point attempts in the Mariners’ 2013 Division 4 Final victory against Grand Rapids South Christian.

“I think it makes sense,” she said. “There were lots of great soccer players, even that I played with. Great players that had gone through school, so I don’t think it’s weird that people remember me for that. When I talk with people, they’ll connect the dots – ‘Oh, you played football.’

“I was more accomplished as a soccer player and had more accolades. But I’m prouder of my football accomplishments, because it was really setting a pathway for girls that wanted to get into that. It’s so much more common now, or accepted. Even though it’s been almost 11 years since we won at Ford Field, I’m so proud of high school Olivia and what she did, the courage she had. She wasn’t scared of anything.”

Viney graduated from MSU’s Veterinary School in 2023. Viney joined Marine City’s football program as a sophomore, playing on the junior varsity squad. While she was there only to kick, she was all in when it came to practicing.

“Coach (Joe) Fregetto made me do tackling drills and drills in the mud – I really did earn my spot on the team,” Viney said. “I think it was mostly because he didn’t know what to do with me, so I guess just do everything that the guys do.”

She handled varsity kicking duties the next two years, setting the school record in 2013 for most extra points made during a single season – a record that still stands. Former Mariners coach Ron Glodich said that Viney actually never missed an extra point that season, as the four failed attempts were never even kicked.

It was her performance in the Division 4 Final that gained her statewide acclaim, as she hit 7 of 7 attempts, tying a record for most extra points made in a Finals game. It stood until a pair of kickers hit eight in 2022.

One record that never will be broken, however, is Viney becoming the first female to score a point at the Finals.

“Everything was so surreal, I was so nervous,” Viney said. “One of my most vivid memories was that day, or maybe the day before, Coach Glodich said, ‘Just so you know, when you get to the field, the goal posts are two feet narrower on each side. But that doesn’t matter if you kick it in the middle.’

“We got there and watched the team before us so we could get used to it, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re so narrow.’ … Seeing myself up on the big screen was kind of almost a little embarrassing, because I knew people were talking about me being the girl. But once we were in the game, it was a lot like any other game. I was just waiting for my turn to go on the field and do my job.”

Viney later was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” – ironically, right below current U.S. Women’s National Team forward Mallory Pugh – but she wasn’t looked at any differently by her teammates, and she wouldn’t have wanted to be.

“That team was all about sacrifice for the team,” Frendt said. “For them to realize, ‘None of us can do what she does, so we better embrace it, because no one else can do it.’ They really made her feel like part of the team. They wanted to protect her, too. But she was tough. She wasn’t going to take anything.”

Viney went to SVSU to study biology and played for its club soccer team. During her time there, she volunteered at an animal shelter and made the decision she wanted to help animals in her career. She works in general practice at Deporre, and would eventually like to work in shelter medicine.

She and her husband Matt, who were married in May, live with their three dogs. She’s not far from home, and in the spring of 2023 she visited Frendt’s college and career readiness class to speak with students at her alma mater. Her presentation and the attention to detail and hard work she put into it, Frendt said, blew his students away. Not that it surprised him.

“That’s poured into her life after sports,” he said of her work ethic. “She just kept plugging away. She’s awesome.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) Marine City’s Olivia Viney kicks at the 2013 11-Player Football Finals, also during her spring soccer season, and cares for one of her patients as an associate veterinarian. (Middle) Viney graduated from MSU’s Veterinary School in 2023. (Photos courtesy of Olivia Viney.)