UBLY — Ubly coach Bill Sweeney has always preached to his players to take nothing for granted and never assume a game is going to be easy.
The Bearcats have had some tough lessons this year, but still managed their third straight 9-0 regular season.
They will host Unionville-Sebewaing Area (5-4) at 7 p.m. Friday to begin Division 7 playoff action.
Despite defeating the Patriots 38-0 in Week 1, Sweeney knows his team will be faced with a difficult challenge.
“You pretty much throw (Week 1) out the window,” said Sweeney. “We’re a different team, they’re a different team. I watched the tape, but it’s so long ago.
“We’ve improved quite a bit, and they’ve improved tremendously. We tell the kids that we’re not good enough to overlook anybody.”
Ubly and USA are no strangers to playing each other. They have played the first game of the season since 2006, and plan on continuing that rivalry for the foreseeable future.
They have also met in the playoffs three times, with the Patriots holding a 2-1 edge. The last meeting came in 2007, the last time USA made the playoffs. Ubly won 40-14.
Including that game, the Bearcats have won the last four meetings, outscoring the Patriots 162-38.
Past history aside, Sweeney knows what USA football is all about.
“You know you’re going to be in a ball game,” he said. “As always, they’re well-coached and they have some stellar athletes.
“They have four or five guys that are really good football players.
“They broke a lot tackles and played us tough. That score was not indicative of the game. They have outstanding defensive ends and their linebackers are good. They didn’t have one of their linebackers when we played them the first time.”
One of the players who has made a living breaking tackles is running back Tim Canfield.
Canfield, along with Tyler Dick, have done much of the damage for the Patriots on the ground this season.
“He’s the best running back that we’ve seen all year,” Sweeney said about Canfield. “The kids know, they remember. He breaks a lot of tackles and does a lot of things for them — he’s a great football player.
“He’s a tough kid and he plays every down like it’s his last.”
Numbers, or lack of, have been a concern for USA all season.
Most games, the team dresses 15 or less players.
“In all actuality, having 15 guys compared to 22 isn’t all that different, especially when you have eight or nine guys playing both ways,” Sweeney said. “They’ve won so many close games late. A lot of that has to do with their conditioning.”
Even though Ubly finished with an unbeaten record, it has sometimes been an adventure.
Last week, the Bearcats gave up 341 yards passing to North Huron. They also committed a number of penalties and turned over the ball.
In Week 2, their regular season winning streak, which has now reached 32, was nearly ended. Sandusky bolted to a 21-0 lead before Ubly rallied for a 30-28 decision.
“You can’t be lax, you can’t float, you can’t take a break,” Sweeney said. “We told the kids when there are a lack of focus and hustle, those are the type of things that happen.
“This group has had games when they’re not real focused in practice, and it gets frustrating some times.”
Other times, the Bearcats have looked like the team that has made back-to-back semifinal appearances.
In Week 5, they dominated Harbor Beach in a 38-6 decision. In Week 8, they earned their second shutout of the season with a 40-0 victory over Deckerville.
“The games that people have called ‘the big games’ we have shown up for them,” Sweeney said.
Ubly’s Wing-T offense has produced amazing balance this season.
Tyler Peruski leads the team with 777 rushing yards and is tied for the team lead in touchdowns with 12.
Brett Cleary had gained 753 yards and six scores while Bryan Nash has 474 yards and 12 TDs.
No team in the Thumb has more consecutive trips to the playoffs than Ubly’s 10.
“A lot of programs are happy to make the playoffs, these guys understand the finality of the playoffs,” Sweeney said.
“We don’t want to downplay making the playoffs, because that’s a big deal, but these kids realize the season ends somewhere along the line. We’re not just happy to make the playoffs.”
The winner of this game will take on the winner of Friday’s Reese at Saginaw Nouvel contest for the district championship.
Ubly Season Review
Week 1: USA 38-0 W
Week 2: Sandusky 30-28 W
Week 3: Marlette 33-8 W
Week 4: Mayville 46-6 W
Week 5: H. Beach 38-6 W
Week 6: Bad Axe 56-22 W
Week 7: Brown City 30-6 W
Week 8: D’ville 40-0 W
Week 9: N. Huron 52-21 W
PF: 363 (40.3): PA: 97 (10.7)
Opponents winning %: 46.3