Raiders defense finds firm footing to win their third regional title
ALMONT — The Almont football team earned their third-ever regional title, joining the 2011 and 2014 squads on that list, en route to a 25-14 triumph against Saginaw Swan Valley in a Division 5, Region 4 championship clash it hosted last Saturday afternoon.
With the outcome, Almont (12-0) advances to this Saturday’s state semifinals at Walled Lake Central High School where it will square off versus Detroit Denby (10-2). That contest is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saginaw Swan Valley watches an 8-4 campaign reach an endpoint.
“We are so proud of our kids for their effort this week in practice,” Almont Coach James Leusby said. “Our scout teams did a great job getting our guys ready all week and the kids came out and executed our game plan today,” he noted.
“It was great to get it done on our home field and we can’t thank the community enough for getting the field ready and for supporting us all season long. “We will get back to work on Monday to try and reach another one of our goals.”
In Saturday’s regional final, Almont jumped out to a 13-7 advantage after one quarter was over with.
That was followed by a scoreless second quarter of play.
When the action resumed, Almont padded their cushion some. Thanks to a 6-0 third quarter edge, the Raiders widened the gap to 19-7 with 36 minutes gone.
Quarter four would see Saginaw Swan Valley outscore Almont 7-6, only to fall 25-14 when the clock zeroed out for the final time.
Almont generated their winning 25-point total aided by a Jack Paupert one-yard touchdown run (followed by an accurate extra point boot from Ryan Miller); a Paupert one-yard touchdown run; a Michael Lulgjuraj five-yard touchdown run; and a Josh Hellebuyck to Colby Schapman nine-yard touchdown pass.
For the afternoon, Hellebuyck completed three of seven pass plays for 55 yards as Almont’s quarterback. He threw zero interceptions along the way.
His successful tosses went to two different targets. Their ranks consisted of Schapman (two catches for 25 yards) and Paupert (one reception for 30 yards).
The Almont ground attack wound up with 184 yards on 45 totes.
Paupert (18 rushes for 93 yards), Mason Smith (50 yards on 13 totes) and Lulgjuraj (nine rushes for 42 yards) proved Almont’s most productive ballcarriers. The remaining five Raider totes netted a combined one-yard loss.
Blake Kapron (three solos and seven assists), Landon Kruse (two solos and eight assists) and Jacob Hausmann (one solo and nine assists) led the Almont defense. Meric Okoniewski (one solo and eight assists), Lane Jackson (one solo and seven assists), Michael Rinke (two solos and four assists) and Schapman (two solos and three assists) made their presence felt as well.
The Almont defense also registered four takeaways en route to the victory. Pierce Matthews (a pair of interceptions), Schapman (an interception) and Okoniewski (a fumble recovery) furnished those.
Kevin Kissane has been covering high school sports for the Tri-City Times since 1985. When not standing on a field or court with his camera and notepad, he enjoys golf, travel and family. Kevin is a 1980 graduate of Capac High School, and is also a grad of St. Clair Community College and earned a degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.