UBLY — The tests keep on coming, and Ubly keeps on passing them.
Last week, the Bearcats had to overcome a team that reminded coach Bill Sweeney of Traverse City Saint Francis.
At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Ubly (11-0) will face a squad that looks very familiar when it hosts Ravenna (8-3) for the Division 7 regional championship.
“They play tough, physical defense,” said Sweeney. “They run the ball. They’re not going to use smoke and mirrors.
“What they remind me of is a lot like us. Like a Deckerville has been, like a Harbor Beach has been, like USA — just a tough hard-nosed football team.
“They just play a good style of rugged old-school football.”
The Bulldogs won in dramatic fashion last week as Zack Courtade found Connor Chopp for a game-winning touchdown as time expired to defeat Merrill, 32-30.
In that game, Ravenna rallied from a 17-6 halftime deficit.
Although Courtade tossed for 198 yards and two scores, the Bulldogs prefer to run the ball.
Josh VanderWagen had 158 yards on 35 carries.
“Their quarterback and running back are real good,” Sweeney said.
For Ubly, Tyler Peruski and Bret Cleary once again led the ground attack in the 34-21 win over Nouvel. Peruski had 138 yards on 23 carries to bring his total to 1,218 yards on the season. Cleary was right behind with 137 yards on 17 totes, coming in at 1,167 yards for the year.
Austin Drake continued his maturation process at quarterback for the Bearcats, tossing for 108 yards and three TDs.
“Last week, it was awesome to win, it was great for us,” Sweeney said. “But this is the kind of game the playoffs are supposed to be about.”
Sweeney was referring to Ravenna’s rich history of playoff appearances and state championships.
The school has four state titles, the most recent coming in 2003.
“They’re one of those legacy programs in Michigan,” Sweeney said.
“The coolest thing about the playoffs is not playing parochial schools. The coolest thing about the playoffs is playing a public school from across the state. Seeing how your best matches up against their best.
“You have Ravenna playing for their conference, which is an exceptionally strong conference. You have Ubly playing for the Thumb. They don’t know anything about us, and we don’t know anything about them.
“It’s what high school football is all about. Beating Nouvel gives us that opportunity.”
After preaching about focus all season, Ubly has played with it through its first two playoff games.
The team has only one turnover, but didn’t allow any points from it.
“It kind of scares you a little bit,” Sweeney said about how well the team has played. “Because they can come off a big win like that and be bad the next game.
“The finality of if we lose is that the kids realize it’s over. So I hope the focus is there. Believe me, they understand how good Ravenna is, and how good of a program it is.”
Saginaw Nouvel attempted to take Ubly by surprise last week.
During the Panthers’ first round game with Reese, they only threw the ball once.
Against the Bearcats, they went to the air 42 times, but only completed 18 attempts for 223 yards. For the most part, the Ubly defense was able to keep receivers from getting loose.
It’s a vast improvement from the 341 passing yards allowed to North Huron in the regular season finale.
The Bearcats ended up with three interceptions, including one from sophomore Kurtis Boom, who took it 22 yards for the score that put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Sweeney credits a player who didn’t record a pick for the improvement in the secondary — Tyler Peruski.
In the second half, Peruski began dishing out some punishing blows to the Nouvel receivers.
“Tyler has been phenomenal,” Sweeney said. “Defensively, he had five or six hits that changed the game for us.
“We had three picks after Tyler started hitting people. Those kids were ducking for cover. They had some drops right across the middle when Tyler started lighting people up.
“That was the first time all year I saw our kids making people pay for coming across the middle.”
The regional championship is being played Saturday because of the distance between Ubly and Ravenna. The total miles is just under 230 miles, translating into a four-hour trip by bus.
The winner of this game will advance to the semifinals to face the winner of Saturday’s McBain (10-1) at Ishpeming (10-0) regional championship.
BOGAN'S PICK: Ubly 26, Ravenna 16
Ubly Season Review
Week 1: USA 38-0 W
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
Week 10: USA 48-6 W
Week 11: Nouvel 34-21 W
PF: 445 (40.4): PA: 124 (11.2)
Ravenna Season Review
Week 1: Kent City 41-6 W
Week 2: Shelby 13-20 L
Week 3: Whitehall 7-0 W
Week 4: Scot. MCC 56-0 W
Week 5: Mus. Oak. 6-37 L
Week 6: Montague 28-21 W
Week 7: Hart 51-7 W
Week 8: N. Musk. 35-14 W
Week 9: Cheboygan 21-35 L
Week 10: Pe-West 35-7 W
Week 11: Merrill 32-30 W
PF: 326 (29.6): PA: 176 (16.0)