Fowlerville football coach Jon Fletcher didn’t want to spend much time talking about the Gladiators’ 28-7 home loss to Williamston (4-1).
It wasn’t because anger overcame him after the loss. He wanted to participate in a post-game Military Appreciation ceremony where players exchanged game jerseys with former military veterans, spouses, widows and children.
"I want to be respectful," he said.
Afterwards tears were shed, long embraces shared and emotions spilled into the chilly night air. Once again this was not due to the Gladiators falling to 2-3 on the season. Players remembered fallen moms and dads, grand dads and uncles, aunts and neighbors who served in the Army, Air Force and Marines.
This loss was not pretty. It was not close and it was decided early when a first quarter interception thrown by Fowlerville quarterback Brady Hanna seemed to tilt the direction of the game into Williamston’s favor. There seemed to be a communications mix up and Williamstone’s Max McCune returned the pick 65 yards for a touchdown.
No one backed down from the play. A wide receiver, a lineman, the head coach and Hanna all took blame.
Fowlerville moved the ball effectively on the opening drive until that miscue. After the pick it fumbled on its next possession and could not move the ball.
Fowlerville’s potent offense was bottled up from that moment forward until running back Blake Juopperi broke loose for a five-yard touchdown run with 2:20 remaining in the game.
“We got to capitalize in big moments,” Fletcher said. “I know we will. These kids are working hard and growing together every week.”
Fowlerville is still a good team, one that still hopes to make the Division 4 playoffs. It has been toughened by a tough schedule. It’s three losses all came to teams that are either ranked or were ranked in the state rankings. Those three teams have combined for a 13-2 record.
Williamston quarterback Alex Petersburg played spoiler on this red, white and blue evening. The entire town of Fowlerville rallied to show support for our troops. In addition to the jersey exchange two helicopters flew over the field prior to kickoff and a paratrooper delivered the game ball with a spectacular jump from hundreds of feet in the sky.
Petersburg fired touchdown passes of nine yards to Joey Mahaney and ran three yard for another, giving Williamston to a 21-0 third quarter lead. He completed 12 passes out of 22 attempts for 124 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 7 times for 52 yards.
Fowlerville’s defense held Williamston scoreless for two quarters before wearing down in the second half. Still the defense played well against a team that averages 30.5 points a game.
“(The defense) played tough,” Fletcher said. “Played like Gladiators. I was proud of them.”