UBLY — Harbor Beach was responsible for starting Ubly’s Thumb record 34-game winning streak.
The Pirates defeated the Bearcats 39-12 on Sept. 12, 2007. Since then, Harbor Beach hasn’t beat Ubly in the regular season, or even been close.
At 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the Greater Thumb East, the Pirates and coach Troy Schelke believe they have the squad to reverse that trend heading into Friday night’s showdown.
“Ubly has had our number lately, so it’s a real important game for us,” said Schelke.
For Ubly (3-1, 2-1), it’s win or forget about a third straight Greater Thumb East title.
During Week 3, the Bearcats saw their streak come to an end in a 14-0 loss to Marlette, the first regular season setback since falling to Harbor Beach in 2007.
In what is shaping up to be a very balanced GTE, first-year coach Dave Kaufman knows his team can’t suffer any more losses if it expects to contend for the championship.
“We want to leave the league in our hands, which means we have to win our league games,” said Kaufman.
Harbor Beach started its run of what looks like four straight GTE championship games with a come-from-behind 34-21 victory over Brown City last week.
Following this week’s game, the Pirates return home to host Marlette (4-0) and then travel to Sandusky (3-1).
Schelke was proud of last week’s comeback over the Green Devils.
With Brown City driving in for another touchdown, the game turned on a clutch interception from Aaron Ginther.
“Hopefully that got our attention. I feel like we kind of stole that one,” Schelke said.
“The best thing about last week is we showed we have resilience. Things looked pretty bleak, but the guys were able to make plays when they needed to. Last week showed us we have a lot to work on. We have the potential to get better. We’re going to have to get better if we want to achieve our goals.”
Ubly’s shutout to Marlette was the first time it failed to score in a game since a 21-0 loss to Unionville-Sebewaing Area on Nov. 4, 2005 in the Division 7 pre-districts.
The Bearcats bounced back with a season-high 52 points in a win over Mayville last week.
“We moved some people around and it made a difference,” Kaufman said.
He is hopeful the changes will also work against Harbor Beach, but knows what to expect from the Pirates’ defense.
“They like to hit and they will stack the box,” he said. “It’s nothing we haven’t seen from them before.”
Ubly’s hope is to play to the age-old adage: “The best defense is a good offense.”
Kaufman and the Bearcats are well aware of Harbor Beach’s sophomore quarterback Eli Kraft.
In the win over Brown City, Kraft tossed for 144 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, he ran for 152 yards and three more scores, including a 50-yarder to seal the game late.
“He’s an exceptional athlete who has picked up the offense very quickly,” Schelke said. “We need to develop more weapons around him.
“Our offense has shown flashes, but we need to be more consistent on the plays in between the big ones.”
Ubly has had the advantage of already seeing a dual-threat quarterback like Kraft in Marlette’s Kolby Lange.
Lange had a good deal of success against the Bearcats’ defense, running for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 97-yard romp.
“We didn’t defend Kolby Lange very well, we can’t let that happen with Eli Kraft,” Kaufman said. “He’s a big part of their offense. We want to make their other players beat us.
“For us, we want to control the ball. We have to keep the ball out of their hands.”
The last time Harbor Beach and Ubly met with both teams having winning records was 2007. That season, the Pirates went on to not only win the GTE, but advance all the way to the Division 7 state semifinals.
“This is a big game, it gets pretty heated,” Kaufman said. “A lot of pride goes into this.”
Added Schelke: “It always takes on a little extra importance when we play Ubly.”