Adams filed this report from the D8 game between Ubly and Saginaw MLS...
UBLY — In football, a player never knows when an opportunity will present itself.
For Ubly’s David Rutkowski and Austin Bischer, they had to fill the shoes of one injured player.
In the first quarter of Friday’s Division 8 opening round game with Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, leading rusher Jason Kaufman went down with a leg injury.
Rutkowski took Kaufman’s place in the backfield while Bischer filled in at linebacker.
The moves worked as they helped lead the Bearcats to a gritty 22-15 victory.
“Those are some big shoes to fill,” said Ubly coach Dave Kaufman. “We had two guys come in that hadn’t played many valuable minutes for us and we asked them to do a lot.
“For those two guys to step in and contribute like that in the biggest game of the year is just huge for us. We’ve had a lot of guys that have had to step in and step up for us this year.”
The Bearcats’ sideline has turned into a M.A.S.H. unit.
Kaufman’s injury makes five starters who are unable to play.
“This was all about perseverance,” Kaufman said. “One kid goes down, and another kid steps up to make plays. When you’re a small school like we are, when you have injuries, it makes it tough.”
Ubly put together a decent drive to start the game, but a failed fourth down attempt gave MLS the ball on its own 36 yard line.
However, the Cardinals fumbled on their first play.
The Bearcats didn’t waste any time scoring as Austin Drake hit a wide open Bryan White. Kaufman ran in the 2-pointer to make it 8-0.
“They put 10 guys in the box and Austin hit Bryan White, who got behind them,” Kaufman said.
Wesley Towne helped MLS tie the game with a 66-yard TD run with 10:12 to play in the first half. Chance Hayes converted the 2-pointer.
The Bearcats responded with a 70-yard drive, capped off by a Drake 1-yard dive with 5:40 to play.
MLS fumbled again on its ensuing possession. Nick Sweeney capped off the short drive with a 1-yard plunge. He also converted the 2-pointer to make it 22-8.
“We were feeling pretty good at halftime after putting two more on them,” Kaufman said.
Sweeney, who began the season in the backfield, hadn’t been part of the offense lately.
But with Kaufman’s injury, he was called upon to carry the load.
He responded, gaining 155 yards on 23 carries.
“Nick Sweeney hasn’t played offense since early in the year,” Kaufman said. “For him to come in like that and gain 155 yards says a lot. We needed him tonight.
“He was our workhorse. He may not be a heavy kid, but he runs hard.”
The Bearcats began the second half by forcing another turnover, setting themselves up with a short field.
Just as they were about to likely put the game away with a score, they were whistled for a false start near the goal line. The momentum of the drive was lost and Ubly turned the ball over on downs.
“If we score and get the 2-point conversion, it’s a 30-8 game,” Kaufman said. “I felt we had the right play called, but we just had a couple of guys jump.”
MLS made the Bearcats pay for their mistake as Hayes hooked up with Luke Morrell on a 40-yard touchdown to make it 22-15 with 20 seconds to play in the third.
Late in the fourth, Ubly was faced with a critical 4th-and-4 on the MLS 34-yard line. A conversion meant the likely end of the game.
Kaufman called a roll out run for Drake, who gained 15 yards.
“We had been running inside and off tackle for the whole game,” he said. “We just felt we could get him to run outside.”
Despite the two big plays allowed, Ubly’s defense was otherwise very good, allowing just 155 yards rushing and 81 passing.
Towne was limited to 75 yards and the other leading rusher for MLS, Stephen Dietrich, was held to 31 yards.
The Bearcats gained 317 yards on the ground and threw for 81. Jimmy Shaw added 94 yards on 20 totes.
Kaufman’s status after the game was unknown. He was taken for an X-ray.
Ubly will be on the road next week to take on New Lothrop in a rematch of the 2003 Division 7 regional final where the Bearcats won 52-22. They followed that up the next year and defeated the Hornets 42-7 in the 2004 Division 7 district semifinals.
New Lothrop defeated Kingston 54-6 on Friday.