TOLONO – After their 24-14 win against Unity on Friday night, some Tuscola players and a handful of fans gathered outside the Warriors' locker room talking about postgame plans. But instead of getting together to party, the players were more concerned with figuring out whose hot tub they would be getting into once back in Tuscola.
"I've never been this sore after a game in my life," Tuscola safety Travis Surma said. "These kids, they come hard and they'll light you up."
Surma and the rest of his teammates know hard-hitting games like Friday's will be the norm in the team's first year back in the Okaw Valley Conference. And Friday's game served as a sort of initiation for the Warriors.
Even though the Warriors came out on top, they took their share of big hits. Surma (20 tackles) had to come to the sideline and have his arm wrapped to stop bleeding. Blake Bassett had a cut on his hand that required medical attention throughout the game. But the biggest blow came early in the second quarter when receiver/cornerback Matt Bailey left the game with a broken collarbone. The injury occurred after Bailey returned a punt to the Unity 5-yard line that set up a Clayton Meyer field goal.
"We've got to learn that this is extremely physical, and it's going to be like this virtually every week in the Big Okaw," Tuscola coach Stan Wienke said.
Wienke even tailored his play calling to the smash-mouth Okaw Valley style. The Warriors have made their name in recent years as a passing team, racking up tons of yards through the air. But on Friday, Tuscola ran the ball 30 times while putting it in the air 14 times.
"Everyone thinks we pass, and we will," he said. "One of these days we're going to throw it 50 (times)."
The biggest run of the night came from an unexpected source. With the Warriors leading 17-14 late in the fourth quarter, Tuscola quarterback John Wienke – who never will be mistaken for Vince Young – rolled to his right to pass but found no one open. He made a couple of juke moves and raced 67 yards to the end zone, outrunning a few Unity defenders to put the game out of reach.
Stan Wienke joked that his son was only able to run so fast because he was scared.
"He keeps saying I was scared; I don't know that I was scared," John Wienke said. "It's just a rollout pass that's been in our offense for years ... the guys, they stuck with it. They did their downfield blocking and that's the most important thing. Everyone stuck on their guy and that really sold the whole thing."
Wienke's late-game dash even drew some praise from Unity coach Scott Hamilton.
"I told John after the game, 'I've spent since February trying to figure out how to stop you from throwing and you end up breaking one (67 yards) on us,' " Hamilton said. "But he's just a great athlete, and there's a reason he's going to Michigan. It's definitely because of his arm, but he can do some other things, too. Honestly I can't say enough great things about him."
The physical nature of the game took its toll on the Rockets, too. Fullback Matt Correa (20 carries, 89 yards) received medical attention after what Hamilton called a "ding on his head." And Creighton Pierce, who played his first game since sustaining an ACL injury, limped off the field.
"Creighton was only supposed to play about 15 plays, and he probably played about 40," Hamilton said. "But I think both teams played extremely hard, and it was just a great high school football game."