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.)

1st & Goal: 2023 Week 6 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 28, 2023

Five showdowns of undefeated teams highlight this week's Michigan high school statewide schedule as we begin our second-half buildup toward the end of the regular season. 

MI Student AidFour shoud heavily impact league championship races, and the fifth merely will tell us how two more of the top 8-player teams in the entire state stack up among the elite.

If you're not watching in person, check out most of the matchups highlighted below, and several others, on Check in as well with the MHSAA Scores page for all of them as they come in. (Games below are Friday unless noted.)

Bay & Thumb

Croswell-Lexington (5-0) at Almont (5-0) - Watch

Just past halfway through the Blue Water Area Conference schedule, half the teams are 3-1 or 4-0 in league play – with these the co-leaders. Croswell-Lexington hasn’t played a game closer than 19 points this fall, but did lose last year’s meeting with Almont 37-26. The Raiders, meanwhile, have won the last two weeks by seven and one point, respectively – but opened the season with three straight shutouts as the stifling defense they’ve become known for has given up only 34 points total.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lapeer (4-1) at Grand Blanc (3-2) - Watch, Linden (4-1) at Fenton (4-1) - Watch, Birch Run (4-1) at Freeland (5-0) - Watch, Madison Heights Lamphere (4-1) at Marine City (4-1).

Greater Detroit

Westland John Glenn (5-0) at Belleville (5-0) - Watch

Belleville’s 42-3 victory over Livonia Franklin last week was the team’s 30th straight, and the Tigers now own the state’s longest active winning streak with Powers North Central’s coming to an end at 41 on the same night. Belleville’s next challenger is John Glenn, which under second-year coach Jason Mensing has as many victories this fall as the last two combined and has nearly guaranteed its first winning season since 2014. Mensing guided his former team Ottawa Lake Whiteford through several memorable moments, and this will be the Rockets’ biggest so far under his leadership.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gibraltar Carlson (4-1) at Trenton (4-1) - Watch, Romeo (3-2) at Macomb Dakota (4-1) - Watch, Lake Orion (5-0) at Rochester Adams (3-2) - Watch, Marine City Cardinal Mooney (3-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (3-2) - Watch.


Goodrich (5-0) at Corunna (5-0) - Watch

The winner of this matchup clinches a share of the Flint Metro League Stars championship, similar to last season when Goodrich won the league and Corunna was second thanks to the Martians’ 42-7 win in their Week 5 matchup. Both arguably have been even better this fall. Goodrich has handed the only losses this season to Frankenmuth and Linden, and Corunna has given up only 31 points this season and no more than 17 in a game while scoring at least 38 every time out.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Evart (4-1) at Beal City (5-0) - Watch, Grand Ledge (5-0) at DeWitt (2-2) - Watch, Fowler (5-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-1) - Watch, Montrose (4-1) at New Lothrop (4-1) - Watch.

Northern Lower Peninsula

Charlevoix (4-1) at Elk Rapids (2-3)

There’s more riding here than the initial glance my indicate. Charlevoix, with a win, would clinch a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title – its first since 2020 and after finishing second to Boyne City both of the past two seasons. The Rayders haven’t had a game closer than 13 points since falling to Traverse City St. Francis by one in their season opener. Elk Rapids got off to a tough start but has won two straight – both in shutouts – and is looking for its first win over Charlevoix since 2018.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grayling (3-2) at Kingsley (4-1) - Watch, McBain (4-1) at Lake City (3-2), Ludington (3-2) at Manistee (4-1) - Watch, Cadillac (3-2) at Petoskey (3-2) - Watch.

Southeast & Border

Jackson (4-1) at Adrian (4-1) - Watch

Jackson has a chance to set up a Week 7 winner-take-all matchup with Chelsea for the Southeastern Conference White championship – a nice jump after finishing third last season. The Vikings haven’t defeated Chelsea since 2018 but lost by a respectable 17-0 last fall. But they can’t overlook Adrian, still enjoying its best season since 2016 despite falling to Chelsea 28-18 last week. The Maples would love to hand Jackson a loss tonight and cheer for the Vikings next week with a title share possible.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Michigan Center (4-1) at Grass Lake (4-1) - Watch, Flat Rock (4-1) at Milan (3-2) - Watch, Ann Arbor Huron (3-2) at Saline (5-0) - Watch, Hudson (5-0) at Blissfield (3-2) - Watch.

Southwest Corridor

Parma Western (5-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-1)

We’re halfway through the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference schedule, and this has emerged as an important matchup with Parma Western tied with Hastings for first and Harper Creek only a game back after falling to the Saxons 34-6 last week. The Beavers struggled to 3-6 a year ago but already have avenged 2022 losses to Battle Creek Lakeview, Battle Creek Central and Marshall – and Western defeated them 34-0 last season before Harper Creek went 2-1 to finish the fall. Western’s defense is a notable strength again, giving up only 37 points total this season despite taking on Dearborn Divine Child and Detroit Country Day over the first two weeks.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Paw Paw (5-0) at Edwardsburg (3-2) - Watch, Constantine (4-1) at Allegan (4-1) - Watch, St. Joseph (3-2) at Portage Northern (5-0) - Watch, Muskegon Catholic Central (3-2) at Schoolcraft (4-1) - Watch.

Upper Peninsula

Gladstone (4-1) at Menominee (5-0)

This is the first of three games that will tell a lot about Menominee’s season as the Maroons enter this stretch alone atop the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper at 4-0 but with Gladstone, Week 7 opponent Negaunee and Week 8 opponent Kingsford all 3-1 in league play. While this is a new conference for the Maroons this season, they have plenty of history with Gladstone as both came from the Great Northern Conference – and Menominee had won three straight in the series before Gladstone’s 28-6 victory last fall. Gladstone’s lone defeat this year came Week 3 to Kingsford, 35-12.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-2) - Watch, Manistique (3-2) at Iron Mountain (5-0) - Watch, Marquette (2-2) at Escanaba (1-4) - Watch, Houghton (2-3) at Calumet (1-4) - Watch.

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at East Grand Rapids (5-0)

We’ve been watching East Grand Rapids’ rejuvenation this fall with this among games circled for special attention, and Forest Hills Central’s 15-14 loss to Byron Center last week hardly lessens the intrigue. The Rangers are still among favorites statewide in Division 3, ranked No. 2, and East Grand Rapids is right behind them this week at No. 3 (while Byron Center is No. 2 in Division 2). The Ottawa-Kent Conference White title won’t be decided with this matchup, but it surely will be impacted – and the Rangers have defeated EGR all three times they’ve met since the Pioneers rejoined the division in 2020.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Allendale (5-0) at Spring Lake (4-1), Lowell (4-1) at Byron Center (5-0), Caledonia (4-1) at Hudsonville (4-1) - Watch, Zeeland East (4-1) at Muskegon (3-2).


Mendon (5-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-0) - Watch

Movement on the overall 8-player enrollment list have made this a matchup we’ll see just this once this fall, as Mendon – last year’s Division 2 runner-up – has moved to Division 1 and is ranked No. 2, while Lenawee Christian is top-ranked in Division 2 after winning Division 1 titles in 2020 and 2021 and reaching a Regional Final last year. Still, many 8-player eyes will be watching. The Cougars have given up just 32 points this season and no more than 12 in a game, and that defense should be part of the key matchup within the matchup because Mendon is scoring 52 per contest and coming off an 80-point performance.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Carson City-Crystal (5-0) at Coleman (4-1) - Watch, Brown City (5-0) at Mayville (5-0) - Watch, St. Ignace (5-0) at Newberry (4-1), Norway (4-1) at Ontonagon (4-1) - Watch.

Second Half’s weekly “1st & Goal” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and X (Twitter) @mistudentaid.

PHOTO Muskegon Catholic Central and Orchard View players reach to get a hand on the ball during their meeting this season. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)