The Mio football team has a long history of making it to the playoffs. The Thunderbolts have made it to the playoffs every year for the last 12 years and have only missed once since 1993.
The Thunderbolts made it in this year in spite of having a young team that struggled early in the season.
This year Mio (6-3) has been matched up against Beal City (9-0). The two teams will meet tonight at 7 p.m. in Beal City for a Division 8 predistrict game.
The Aggies have held teams to single digit scores four times this year including two shut outs against Pinconning and Marion. Last year, Beal City made it to regionals before being eliminated.
The Aggies' talent is not lost on Mio head coach Jim Gendernalik.
"They're a great team, they do a lot of things very well. They're probably one of the top five teams in the division," he said.
Beal City is currently ranked third in Division 8 .The Aggies have made it to the playoffs every year since 2000 and have only missed two years since 1990.
Quarterback Sam Schafer has had a solid year, passing for 529 yards. Leading receiver Ryan Tillman has caught 10 passes for 277 yards and six touchdowns.
Beal City focuses big on its running game with Ty Rollin and Hayden Huber leading the way. Rollin has more than 500 yards on the season.
Mio started slow but ended the regular season on a strong note. The Thunderbolts earned big wins against Au Gres and a playoff-bound Hillman squad on the way to the playoffs.
As the year has passed, Mio has begun to gel more. The Thunderbolts are relying heavily on a running-based attack and it's worked well. Bryson Devers has 818 yards on 131 carries and 12 scores and Aaron Wood has 735 yards on 101 carries and nine touchdowns.
Mio's passing attack has also improved. Quarterback Brad Rhoads has completed more than 50 percent of his passes for 1130 yards and nine touchdowns.
Seth Thomey leads the team in receptions with 17 catches for 350 yards while Chaun Obermiller has caught 15 passes for 265 yards and Colton McGregor has 24 grabs for 255 yards.
Gendernalik has been happy with his team's continued improvement.
"We've gotten a lot better and expanded our offense considerably. We have a variety of offensive options which we're getting better and better at with each practice," he said.
Beal City coach Lou Rau discussed his team's approach to preparing for the playoffs.
"We're preparing for the game like we do with any game: approaching it like it's a big game. We're working as hard as we've ever worked to become as strong as we can," he said.
He also commented on the Aggies tradition of playoff success.
"We've been there enough times to know what we're doing. We're just going to keep doing what we do and not change something that isn't broken," he said.
Gendernalik outlined his strategy for the game.
"We're going to focus on shutting down the run and eliminating turnovers. Turnovers have been a problem for us all year and we're going to try to eliminate them as much as possible. Basically, we're going to prevent them from running wild on the offense, tackle hard, block on offense and move the ball as much as possible," he said.