In Play with Tom Markowski


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Fraser ends 16-year playoff drought, beats Sterling Heights

By: Tom Markowski, October 24, 2014, 12:00 am



Sterling Heights – Pat Threet has been waiting for this night for four years.

Threet came to Fraser as head coach after guiding St. Clair Shores Lakeview to its first playoff appearance in 2010. A teacher in the Fraser school system. The move had been planned. But there were those who questioned why he would leave a program, one he and his staff made relevant in the Macomb Area Conference.

Don’t look now, but Threet’s football team has done it again. Not since 1998 had the Ramblers made the playoffs but that changed on Friday when Fraser defeated host Sterling Heights 42-21 in a MAC crossover to clinch a playoff spot.

“Our kids have worked so hard,” Threet said. “Last November they were in the eight room three days a week. I told them then that they could be playing for a district championship if we had made (the playoffs). Our kids at Fraser are no different than they are anywhere else.”   

Threet’s teams struggled in his first three seasons finishing 4-5, 1-8 and 3-6. And it didn’t look promising this season when they got off to a 1-3 start. Threet leaned on his staff at that point to bring some stability.

“When you have coaches like Dennis Zbozen and Al Kastl over there,” Threet said. “They just said to stay the course. Kids just see the wins and losses. They don’t know how well they played. Heck, Grosse Pointe North beat us on the last play.”  

In the end it is about the Jimmys and the Joes. Players like Jeff Mainhardt, Marcus Bowers and Dylan Walker, three of the team’s 25 seniors, were determined to leave their mark on the program. Beginning with week five they treated every game like a playoff game and now, officially, they are that playoff team, a feat not taken for granted by anyone associated with the program.  

“It’s a process,” Bowers said. “We have a great coach. It’s the players. Coach teaches us the right attitude. We like to fight.

“We could have won those (3) games. We took it personal. We knew our time was coming.”

When Bowers was a freshman the freshmen tram finished 7-2. But Bowers didn’t play on that team. He started on varsity for four years and is a big reason why Fraser is in the playoffs. He starts at linebacker and plays more than half the time in the offensive backfield.

Winning that second game had its tense moments as well. Fraser trailed New Baltimore Anchor Bay 12-0 before coming back to win, 42-25. The score was 12-7 when Fraser took over on its 1-yard line. Walker, who was named the starting quarterback that week, threw a 99-yard touchdown pass to Mainhardt to get the Ramblers going on the right track.

Walker and Mainhardt were again at the forefront against Sterling Heights. Mainhardt, a defensive back-receiver-kick returner, recovered a fumble that set up Bowers’ 3-yard touchdown run that gave Fraser a 14-0 lead with 7:41 left in the first quarter.

Mainhardt caught a 56-yard touchdown pass from Walker to up Fraser’s lead to 27-7. Three plays later Mainhardt returned an interception 17 yards to set up Dominic Mielke’s 23-yard touchdown run and Fraser took a 35-7 lead at halftime.

Mielke had 205 yards rushing on just 11 carries and his 71-yard touchdown run on Fraser’s first play from scrimmage in the second half produced a running clock and Fraser was headed to the playoffs.

It’s uncertain if Fraser will compete in Division 1 or 2 but right now that doesn’t matter.

Like Threet told his players, for the first time in 16 years Fraser will be playing a 10th game.