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.)

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.