THOMAS TOWNSHIP, MI — For the past two seasons, there was a certain degree of hurt.
There always is when something comes to an end, when the finality of a conclusion means there isn’t another scene, another joke, another song or another game.
But for the past two seasons, Alex Grace and Taylor Reaume treated the wound with the healing powers of next year. After the Swan Valley teammates lost as sophomores to Detroit Country Day in the semifinals, there was next year. After they lost as juniors to Lansing Sexton in the quarterfinals, there was still next year.
After Friday’s 41-20 loss to Lansing Sexton, there remained next year, but it will not be on Friday nights with family and neighbors cheering. Next year will include Saturdays in big stadiums and, likely, a spot on the bench instead of calling the coin flip.
“Alex has been my best friend since second grade,” Reaume said. “We’ve been on the same football team since fifth grade. When we were sophomores, we got called up to varsity together.
“Alex is a leader … just an incredible work ethic. We knew we would be OK with Alex around. It was like that every year.”
Grace will play for Western Michigan University next season, trading Friday nights in Saginaw for Saturday afternoons in Kalamazoo.
“Taylor’s the best linebacker,” Grace said. “I’m glad I didn’t have to play against him. He was just always there for our team … a great leader, a great linebacker.”
Both finish their Swan Valley careers with impressive numbers.
Grace finished with 7,541 career yards and 99 rushing touchdowns. His career yardage is third on the state record list, while his 99 rushing touchdowns are second. He ran for 188 yards Friday to finish his career with 23 consecutive 100-yard games, the third-longest streak in state history. But Grace saw his 200-yard streak end at eight games, still a state record.
Grace, who owns the state single-season rushing record with 2,962, finished with 598 points, ninth in state history.
Reaume finished with 14 tackles Friday after getting 17 in the last meeting with Sexton. In three years, Reaume made 459 tackles.
“I know this is hard to lose like this, but you look at everything this group achieved in the past three years, and it’s pretty incredible,” Swan Valley coach Ken Bourbina said. “They accomplished so much.
“We have a lot of good athletes in our junior class, and we had a lot of juniors playing. But these seniors did so much. This was such a tight team, a close team.”
Reaume, however, may not be ready to separate from Grace entirely. Western Michigan has offered Reaume a spot as a preferred walk-on next season. He also has offers from some Division II teams and will continue to make recruiting visits.
That, however, was of secondary interest Friday. The Vikings said goodbye to not just Reaume and Grace, but to 17 other seniors too.
“For the past three years, I know we made a lot of memories that will last a lifetime,” Reaume said. “There are so many moments that we experienced together, good and bad.
“It’s just something I’ll never forget.”