Adams filed this report on the Ubly-Saginaw MLS contest
UBLY — For the first time in three regular seasons, Ubly finally suffered a loss.
In fact, the Bearcats lost twice, but it didn’t prevent them from making the postseason for the 11th straight year.
They will host Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (6-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the Division 8 playoffs.
Looking back, the losses forced first-year coach Dave Kaufman and his staff to make some changes, including taking Jason Kaufman off the offensive line and moving him to running back.
Kaufman, listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds has provided the big physical back the team needed after Bret Cleary was lost in the opening game against Unionville-Sebewaing Area.
In Week 3, Marlette ended the Bearcats’ 34-game regular season winning streak. Following that game, coach Kaufman decided to make some adjustments.
Also following that game, Jimmy Shaw returned from injury to provide stability in the backfield. He had his breakout game in a win over Bad Axe, turning in a six touchdown performance.
“Jimmy has really come into his own,” said Kaufman.
Although the loss to Marlette forced a few changes, a 34-22 setback to Harbor Beach in Week 5 made the entire team re-evaluate itself. The Pirates bolted to a 21-0 lead, and led 27-8 by halftime.
At the break, Kaufman challenged his team. Although it didn’t result in a win, the second-half performance served to set the tone for the rest of the season.
“It was about pride,” Kaufman said. “We didn’t play Ubly football in the first half against Harbor Beach. Since the second half of that game, we’ve been playing Ubly football.”
Since the loss to Harbor Beach, Ubly has allowed just 14 points in four games, including three shutouts.
The Bearcats featured the best nine game defense in the Greater Thumb Conference, allowing just 8.2 points per game.
“I feel like our kids have gotten better every week,” Kaufman said.
The Bearcats are facing a team in MLS that was once a fixture in the playoffs during the 1980s and 1990s.
This the Cardinals’ second straight postseason berth, the first time that has happened since 1998.
“We’ve been undersized all year, so this won’t be any different,” Kaufman said. “They’ve got size, but we should be quicker.”
MLS features a nice backfield duo of Stephen Dietrich and Wesley Towne.
Both had nine touchdowns this season. Towne led the team with 809 yards and Dietrich rushed for 781.
Kaufman said the Cardinals will throw some different looks offensively, including option and Power-I.
MLS is the smallest team in the Tri-Valley West. The TVW sent five teams to the playoffs. The Cardinals were 1-3 against teams in the postseason, defeating Merrill (48-34) in Week 7.
“They come from a very good conference. They played some good competition,” Kaufman said.
Ubly is in a similar position. It is the smallest team in the Greater Thumb East, which also featured five teams in the playoffs.
The Bearcats were 2-2 against those teams, beating Sandusky (14-6) in Week 2 and Brown City (46-14) in Week 7.
“Having five teams in the playoffs really says a lot about how good our conference is,” Kaufman said.
The winner of this game will face the winner of the Kingston (7-2) at New Lothrop (9-0) game for the district championship.
Saginaw MLS Recap
W1: Mayville 42-7
W2: B’Ridge 14-0
W3: St. Charles 21-39
W4: Carrollton 28-54
W5: St. Louis 22-19
W6: Ithaca 7-37
W7: Merrill 48-34
W8: V. Luth. 42-7
W9: BCAS 49-7
PF: 273 (30.3)
PA: 204 (22.6)
Opp Win %: 43.2
Playoff Points: 46.444
W1: USA 28-0
W2: Sandusky 14-6
W3: Marlette 0-14
W4: Mayville 52-6
W5: H. Beach 22-34
W6: Bad Axe 44-0
W7: Brown City 46-14
W8: Deckerville 20-0
W9: N. Huron 44-0
PF: 270 (30.0)
PA: 74 (8.2)
Opp Win %: 48.1
Playoff Points: 55.778
ADAMS SAYS: The Bearcats seem to be peaking at the right time.
PICK: Ubly 35, Saginaw MLS 6