As we begin the football playoffs tonight, let’s begin with a question:
What in the world is Algonac doing in these playoffs, much less hosting Clinton Township Clintondale?
Seriously. The Muskrats were 1-8 last season and played with absolutely no spark, turning the season into a nightmare for the youngsters who actually knew the object is to win the game.
“It was brutal to still be practicing every day and going on Friday nights knowing that not all of the guys on your team wanted to compete,” said Mason Ruhlman, now a senior two-way starter. “Some guys just like playing in games for fun, but for me — as competitive as I am — I hated it. It was rough.”
That’s why Ruhlman and his returning teammates attacked the off-season with this year’s junior class with a ferocity rarely seen at Algonac.
The players made their off-season workouts must-attend events, and they did more than mess around in the weight room. It became serious business.
Eventually, Ruhlman got the feeling that last year’s pathetic performance would not be repeated this season. In fact, Ruhlman began using the “P” word: playoffs.
“After all of the hard workouts and all of the work we put in in the off-season, it began to become a picture inside our heads to believe we could make a run this season,” he said. “We started thinking about the playoffs after we had our football camp that we could be contenders this year.”
That’s the wonderful thing about kids, they are so darn optimistic. With only two playoff appearances in school history, this group of Muskrats thought they were capable of doing what seemed so impossible to others.
The Muskrats did their version of shock the world in the opener when they played Marine City, one of the best programs in the state that hasn’t had a losing season since 1982 and tonight is making its 18th consecutive playoff appearance.
Algonac began this season with a stunning 19-18 victory, and suddenly everything connected to Algonac football changed.
“It was unreal to come out Week 1 and play a team of their caliber and beat them,” Ruhlman said. “Right after that game, we knew this was different.”
The high school football world seemed to be turned upside down in Week 7 when Algonac faced Almont, which used and abused the Muskrats last season, 72-7.
This time, Algonac won, 21-7, the highlight of an amazing 8-1 season.
“It was just awesome coming out and beating them,” Ruhlman said. “They smacked us, and they didn’t think we were going to be as strong as we were.”
Ruhlman is 5-feet-8, 185 pounds, and he doesn’t just play football, he attacks the game, as a defensive end where he chases down ballcarriers all over the field and at offensive tackle and part-time fullback where he is a devastating blocker.
“They call me a pit bull,” he said, proudly.
A year from now, Ruhlman hopes to be playing college baseball, and he realizes better than most that the next time Algonac loses a game, his high football career will be finished. Forever.
“I never thought in my high school career that we would be this competitive a team and the fact that Algonac, as a community, would be just flowing blue and gold,” he said. “It’s just awesome. I do not want it to end anytime soon.”
Welcome to the playoffs, Muskrats. Hope you can stay awhile.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.
Join us for a live chat and score updates during all of the high school football playoff action Friday night. And tweet your score updates with an #mipreps hashtag to get them into the blog.