SEBEWAING — Thumb area football teams didn’t get a lot of love this fall from the Associated Press.
But the immense local talent didn’t go unnoticed by the Thumb Sportswriters Association.
The Unionville-Sebewaing Area football team, just two years removed from a dismal 1-8 season, nabbed three awards — Coach of the Year, Offensive Lineman of the Year and Player of the Year — to highlight the 2016 edition of the TSA Fall Sports Awards.
Thanks to his knack for performing in the clutch, and the big numbers he put up on both sides of the football, the Patriots’ Tanner Foley has been named 11-Man Football Player of the Year. Teammate Cody Finkbeiner, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound blocking machine is the Offensive Lineman of the Year and USA coach Tyler Langs, who has improved the Patriots’ record from 1-8 in 2014, to 5-5 last year, to 9-2 this fall, is the TSA Coach of the Year.
In other voting, despite missing the first four games of the season to injury, Millington linebacker Jared Roehl earned Thumb Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row.
Ubly, which won the Greater Thumb East and finished the regular season with a 9-0 record and No. 4 Division 7 ranking, before advancing to the state semifinals, was named Thumb 11-Man Team of the Year. The Bearcats, which finished the season at 12-1, were a near-unanimous selection for top team with 28 points, followed by Millington (20) and USA (6).
The Patriots finished the year with a Greater Thumb West championship and No. 7 ranking in Division 7 while Millington advanced to the Division 6 semifinals. The Cardinals, ended the year with an 11-2 record and No. 3 ranking.
Despite Ubly, Millington and USA dominating at the local level — and making lots of noise state-wide — the three teams combined to place just one player on an AP all-state team. No players from USA, Ubly or Millington were named to a first team, or a second team. Cardinals’ quarterback Bryce Bearss, who is a first-team all-Thumb selection, was named honorable mention on the AP Division 5/6 team.
But a lack of respect from the state press is why the TSA was formed in the mid-2000s. The TSA consists of representatives from The Advertiser, Huron County View, Huron Daily Tribune, Sanilac County News, 92.1 FM The Mix and 102.1 WLEW Sports.
Foley was the Patriots’ quarterback last year, and this year made the switch to running back. It paid off as the senior ran for 1,127 yards and 17 touchdowns. And although the numbers are telling, it was Foley’s play in the clutch that set him apart. USA’s play of the season came in a Week 4 win over Cass City, and Foley was responsible for it. Trailing by six with only a couple of seconds left in the game (enough time for one more play), Foley found the end zone on a three-yard run to tie the game at 22-22. He then carried in the subsequent two-point conversion to give the Patriots the win in the GTW opener, propelling them to their first league title since 2005.
“Fourth-and-one, game on the line, he’s the guy,” Langs said. “Whoever works hardest in the offseason is going to get the football, and Tanner deserved every bit of it. And obviously it worked out for us.”
Foley earned first team all-conference both as a running back, and a defensive back. Many of his offensive yards came from running behind Finkbeiner.
“He was on the left side and Tanner was on the right, so when Tanner got the ball, he was running behind Cody Finkbeiner,” Langs said. “Cody was one of those kids in the weight room in January and February, this senior class put in the work in the offseason.”
Langs took over as USA coach prior to the 2014 season, and has improved the Patriots record by four wins in each of the past two years. This year he coached his team up when it mattered most as USA went 4-1 in games determined by eight points or less.
Roehl had knee surgery in late summer, but when he came back he resumed his role as shut-down defender. Roehl may have missed four games, but he still led the Cardinals with 73 total tackles. A former state wrestling champion, the senior recently signed to grapple for Central Michigan University.
Foley, Finkbeiner and Roehl were unanimous decisions for their awards. Langs had 24 points to beat out Ubly’s Dave Kaufman (16), Millington’s Roger Bearss (9) and Brown City’s Aren Cooper (4).
In the 8-man voting, it’s no surprise that Deckerville dominated the post-season awards. The Eagles went 8-0 in the regular season, winning the North Central Thumb League and taking a No. 2 ranking into the playoffs before settling for state runner-up after losing to No. 1 Powers North Central in the 8-man championship game. Deckerville was the unanimous choice for TSA 8-Man Team of the Year, as was Deckerville running back/defensive back Austin Fritch for Player of the Year and Eagles coach Bill Brown for Coach of the Year.
TSA All-Thumb 11-Player Football
Team of the Year: Ubly
Player of the Year: Tanner Foley, USA
Coach of the Year: Tyler Langs, USA
Defensive Player of the Year: Jared Roehl, Millington
Offensive Lineman of the Year: Cody Finkbeiner, USA
First team offense
QB — Bryce Bearss, Millington
QB — Jake Galsterer, Reese
RB — Derek Brown, Ubly
RB — Brady Payne, Millington
RB — Tanner Foley, USA
OL — Cody Finkbeiner, USA
OL — Brady Warford, Cass City
OL — Darrin Soule, Ubly
OL — Nick Eickhoff, Millington
TE/WR — Luke Wilson, Croswell-Lexington
TE/WR — Caleb Muxlow, Brown City
At large — James Schelke, Harbor Beach (WR)
At large — Brennan Wissner, Laker (QB)
At large — Kohlton Sherman, Millington (WR)
At large — Jonathan Brandel, Ubly (RB)
K — Jake Galsterer, Reese
First team defense
DL — Max Slater, USA
DL — Adam Grifka, Ubly
DL — Nick Eickhoff, Millington
DL — Keegan Galbraith, Croswell-Lexington
DL — Bradley Gierman, Brown City
LB — Dominic Rosenthal, Ubly
LB — Brady Payne, Millington
LB — Jared Roehl, Millington
LB — Mitchell Bender, Reese
DB — Jake Galsterer, Reese
DB — Brennan Wissner, Laker
DB — Jonathan Brandel, Ubly
DB — Michael Graves, Caro
DB — Tanner Foley, USA
P — Brady Kirsch, Harbor Beach
Second team offense
QB — Brady Kirsch, Harbor Beach
QB — Matt Maikrzek, Ubly
RB — Josh Lang, USA
RB — Hunter Seley, Laker
RB — T.J. Moore, Cass City
OL — Keegan Biscorner, Croswell-Lexington
OL — Lukas Selich, Millington
OL — Aaron Klama, Ubly
TE/WR — Cameron Henderson, Millington
TE/WR — Keegan Valentine, Laker
At large — Chorben Chisholm, Marlette (RB)
At large — Michael Graves, Caro (RB)
At large — Brad Hacker, Cass City (RB)
At large — Ricky Lindsay, Brown City (RB)
K — Shane Horton, Millington
Second team defense
DL — Darrin Soule, Ubly
DL — Travis Cryderman, USA
DL — T.J. Moore, Cass City
DL — Elijah Gorde, Reese
DL — Brady Warford, Cass City
LB — Luke Wilson, Croswell-Lexington
LB — Nick Perry, Cass City
LB — Caleb Muxlow, Brown City
LB — Jacob Topham, Caro
DB — Jacob Hartman, Reese
DB — Kohlton Sherman, Millington
DB — Derek Brown, Ubly
DB — Calvin Cook, Brown City
DB — Logan Rutledge, North Branch
P — Marcus Armstrong, Marlette
TSA All-Thumb 8-Player Football
Team of the Year: Deckerville
Player of the Year: Austin Fritch, Deckerville
Coach of the Year: Bill Brown, Deckerville
First team offense
QB — Brandon Patullo, Deckerville
QB — Jared Hoag, Mayville
RB — Austin Fritch, Deckerville
RB — Jake Warack, Owendale-Gagetown
RB — Justin Ritchie, Carsonville-Port Sanilac
OL — Reese Bays-Kramer, Deckerville
OL — Jackson Schenk, Mayville
OL — Will Sharrard, Peck
OL — Leland Raetz, Carsonville-Port Sanilac
TE — Derek Vincent, Owendale-Gagetown
At large — David Binder, Owendale-Gagetown (RB)
At large — Chance Chippi, Caseville (RB)
At large — Wyatt Janowiak, Deckerville (TE)
At large — Hunter James, Kingston (QB)
At large — Zach Lefler, Mayville (RB)
K — Wyatt Janowiak, Deckerville
First team defense
DL — Austin Spaetzel, Deckerville
DL — Bo Mickelson, Kingston
DL — John Ridley, Deckerville
LB — Reese Bays-Kramer, Deckerville
LB — Ben Hulley, Mayville
LB — Cole Romzek, Deckerville
DB — Brandon Patullo, Deckerville
DB — Chris Beurmann, Peck
DB — Austin Fritch, Deckerville
At large — Derek Vincent Owendale-Gagetown (DB)
At large — Joe Ales, Caseville (DL)
At large — David Weller, Peck (LB)
P — Grant Koehler, Kingston