UBLY — Bill Sweeney remembers it well.
It was a chilly October night in 2007, and his Ubly squad was playing rival Deckerville.
Faced with a fourth-and-1 play, the Eagles decided to go after an untested freshman linebacker playing in his first game.
The young man, still a little nervous from making his varsity debut, quickly showed why he was called up. He stuffed the play and helped the Bearcats to a 38-0 victory.
That freshman was Eric Booms, and he is believed to have played in more winning games than any player in Ubly history.
“They ran a straight dive right at him,” said Sweeney. “He just smoked that kid. I remember just saying, ‘Wow, what a player he is going to be.’”
Before Booms arrived on Oct. 5 of the 2007 season, Ubly’s defense was allowing 17.6 points through six games.
The Bearcats gave up just 10.6 points in the five games after.
“When he came up as a freshman, it changed our season overnight defensively,” Sweeney said. “He’s been the backbone of our defense for three years.”
Booms recalls that first game.
“I was pretty nauseous the first couple of plays, I got knocked around a little,” he said.
“After that, I settled down and was able to do my job.”
It’s a job Booms (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) has done exceptionally well. During his time with the varsity team, he has been part of 40 victories and only three defeats. Booms has never experienced a loss during the regular season, or at home.
He is hoping to keep that home record intact when Ubly hosts Ravenna at 2 p.m. today for the Division 7 regional championship.
Being part of 40 wins isn’t something Booms set out to do. He’s quick to deflect any credit for it.
“It’s about all the teammates I’ve had around me, and Mr. (Jim) Becker and Coach Sweeney,” he said. “They were all teaching me every day how to do things.
“Having Mr. Becker as one of the better defensive coaches around, it’s pretty easy to read your keys and do your stuff like you’re supposed to. I was just an average player. I definitely wouldn’t be here without my teammates and my coaches.”
Added Sweeney: “If you would have told me he would win this many games, I wouldn’t have believed you.
“He’s just amazing. He’s a gamer. He’s a winner.”
Booms is a two-time first-team All-Thumb performer, and a candidate for the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named to the Division 7-8 All-State squad in 2009.
He once again leads the team in tackles this season with 118. In fact, his 78 solo tackles would rank him third overall for the Bearcats.
This season, Booms was asked to become the leader of the defense. For his first three years on varsity, he appeared along side fellow linebacker Dalton O’Connor.
“I was really concerned this year, losing Dalton O’Connor. Dalton was a great leader and I was worried about Eric being able to take the reins,” Sweeney said. “Eric’s kind of a quiet kid, but he just grabbed it and ran with it. That’s just awesome to see.
“It’s been impressive to see him grow and taking the younger guys under his wing.”
Of the 43 games Booms has played in, it’s one of the three losses he remembers most.
It was the loss to Traverse City Saint Francis in the 2008 Division 7 state championship.
“There have been a lot of fun games that we’ve played — Ford Field was one of them,” he said. “Getting to play where the Detroit Lions play, walking down the tunnel, seeing all the fans — that was really sweet.”
Booms knows there are just two games separating Ubly from a return trip to Ford Field.
“It would be nice to go back there again, but we have to take one game at a time,” he said.
In last week’s 34-21 win over Saginaw Nouvel, it was another Booms that gained attention.
Kurtis Booms, Eric’s younger brother, picked off a pass in the fourth quarter and returned it for a touchdown. It ended up being the play that sealed the win for Ubly.
“Playing with my brother was pretty sweet,” he said. “Last year, he was moved up for the playoffs, but I don’t think I ever played at the same time with him. Playing these last couple of games with him has been pretty fun.”
Although his defense gets most of the attention, Booms is a talented offensive player, as well.
He leads the team with 15 catches for 329 yards, four touchdowns and four 2-pointers.
“He’s played offensive end for us for three years,” Sweeney said. “He’s a great blocker, we’ve ran for a lot of yards behind him. And he’s made a lot of big time catches for us.
“This year, he was a key component for our offense. He’s the one that had to communicate to the right side of the line and help them grow.”
Added Booms: “When they call on me, I just do my thing. It’s blocking most of the time. I have fun doing that.”
At most, Booms has three games remaining in his stellar Ubly career.
“He’s far exceeded any expectations I’ve ever had for him,” Sweeney said. “We’ve had a great run, and Eric has been a part of it the whole time.”
Booms is hoping to put off the thoughts of not playing football for Ubly for at least a couple more weeks.
“It probably will (hit me) once the season’s over,” he said. “But right now, I just want to keep going hard, taking it one week at a time.”
|Eric Booms makes a catch for the Bearcats.|