Hello, playoffs. Nice to be back.
Last Friday’s dominating 52-6 blowout of the Gladwin Flying G’s on the road was the Roscommon football team’s sixth straight win and secured the Bucks an automatic qualification for the playoffs. The Bucks last made the postseason in 2012.
It’s been a steady two-year climb for the Bucks, who improved to 4-5 last season after going 2-7 in 2014.
The Bucks have outscored their opposition 184-85 this season and are standing on the doorstep of a Jack Pine Conference championship.
"It’s nice to be at this point this early, that’s for sure," Bucks’ head coach Steve Clements said. "Things are going well. We were up 36-6 at halftime (against Gladwin). We just came out and executed and it went very well for us.
"Now we’re focusing on winning the Jack Pine and trying to get a home game in the playoffs. We want to keep on winning. Having a playoff game in Roscommon would be cool."
Roscommon hasn’t started a season 6-0 in 34 years (1982). It’s a testament to the hard work the Bucks put in during the off-season, especially on defense after they’d allowed 31 points a game last year.
Everything has definitely come together in this, Clement’s fourth year at the helm. The program is beginning to build with the junior varsity also off to a 6-0 start which certainly bodes well for the future.
It’s been an exciting fall sports season for Roscommon with the soccer team 14-0-1 and knocking on the door of the Northern Michigan Soccer League North Division title, and the girls volleyball team undefeated in the conference.
The offensive line has been the driving force behind the Bucks’ success on the football field, helping them average 30.6 points, along with a stout defense that has limited its opponents to an average of 13.6 points a game.
Justin Brooks at guard, Tommy Tiepel are center and tackle Jeremiah Waterman have provided the senior leadership on the line that has opened up huge holes for the running backs to run through.
Running back Trey Lewandowski has already rushed for 1,250 yards (second in the state) on 175 carries for a 7.1-yard average with 14 touchdowns. Kaleb Keipert is the leading receiver with five catches for 180 yards and two scores. Lewandowski is also leads the defense with 63 tackles and eight sacks. Seth Sebert has 37 tackles and two sacks.
"When you’re only giving up 13 points a game you’re going to be in most cases in a position to win," Clements said. "Defense is playing well, the line’s playing well, and the backs are running behind that O line.
"The leadership from our seniors is carrying us a long way. Our quarterback Jacob Sayed is starting to be a leader and that’s nice to see, too. The work we’ve done is paying off. We went back to really teaching fundamentals and it’s been very beneficial."
Now that they’ve secured a playoff berth, the Bucks can focus on their other goal of winning the conference.
Although they still have to play Harrison, which is 3-1 in the conference, in the regular season finale in Harrison on Oct. 21, the Bucks can put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat for the conference title with a win over Clare at home this Friday night.
Clare is also 4-0 in the Jack Pine (5-1 overall) and the tie at the top will definitely be broken.
"It’s a pretty special opportunity," Clements said. "The challenge is on us. Clare has won the league eight of the last nine seasons."
Roscommon hasn’t won the conference since 2006. Playing the game at home gives the Bucks a clear advantage.
"The community support has been great," Clements said. "I think the Houghton Lake game had 1,900 people at it unofficially. The support is there for sure."
SOCCER KICKING IT: Going into Tuesday evening’s road game at Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian, the Bucks’ soccer team was 14-0-1 and leading the Northern Michigan Soccer League North Division with an undefeated record.
While the Bucks don’t have a high scoring forward threatening to put his name in the state record books, what they do have is a balanced attack predicated on great teamwork and an unselfish attitude.
No ball hogs in this bunch.
Remarkably, despite this willingness to spread the wealth around and just worry about getting the ball to the person with the best chance to score, the Bucks have recently had games with multiple players scoring multiple goals… including one in which two players each had a hat trick (three goals).
"We don’t seem to have any super stars or anything like that," Bucks’ head coach John Sinnaeve said. "It’s just everybody working together and a seasoned defense. Our defense has just been outstanding this year. We haven’t given up too many goals, and two of them were ‘own’ goals."
Key members on the defense includes goalkeeper Clay Jaskowski, who’s referred to as one of the Bucks’ "generals" on the pitch by Sinnaeve, as well as sweeper Aaron Jacobs. They communicate well, work together well and know which each other is doing.
The Bucks’ defense is further strengthened on the outside left and right along in Logan Strickler, Noah Ekdom and Connor Kozumplik with a solid stopper in Justin Glenn. Kozumplik has been a dandy, according to Sinnaeve. Glenn is the first line of defense at the top in the Bucks’ diamond formation.
"Our defense has been able to keep the pressure on the ball and push it up to the middle field, who can transfer it up to our attackers," Sinnaeve said.
Sinnaeve rotates three attackers with Landon Adams, Gage Sarna and Brenden Spencer.
The Bucks have a challenging schedule to finish the season, which was by design according to Sinnaeve to get them ready for the playoffs.
After Harbor Light Christian the Bucks are scheduled to play Saginaw Arts & Science and Clare, before some tough crossover games the week before districts.
The Bucks are hoping to be peaking going into the districts. At least, that’s the plan.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News.