By Ben Murphy
Photos by Kim Langlois
Twenty-eight second-half points turned what had been a close rivalry game into a blowout Friday night, as the Clare Pioneers regrouped to roll to a 34-0 win over host Farwell in the Five-Mile Football rivalry.
“We went from playing the best game of the year the previous week (against Gladwin) to the worst half of the year,” Clare head coach Kelly Luplow said of the Jack Pine Conference win. “We picked it up in the second half but it was kind of disappointing the way we played offensively.”
The two teams traded possession for most of the first half, though neither could draw first blood.
“We played them tough they just capitalized on a couple of our mistakes,” Farwell head coach Alan Esterline said. “The first half we played them tough, our kids didn’t quit and they kept fighting.”
Farwell forced a Clare turnover late in the first quarter and drove all the way to the Pioneers’ two-yard line. After a pair of runs were stopped short, Farwell fumbled the ball away to Clare.
The Pioneers finally broke onto the scoreboard late in the half, getting a 25-yard touchdown run by quarterback Colton Punches with just 23 seconds left in the half.
“(The fumble recovery) was a big play,” Luplow said. “I don’t know if it would have changed the complexion of the game or not but I think it helped as far as our attitude and excitement for the game. Any time you get a turnover like that it certainly gives you the upper hand.
“The score before halftime was huge,” Luplow said. “We finally put together a drive where we ran the ball and passed the ball and got one in just before half. I thought that was huge for us.”
Clare began to pick up its pace in the third quarter, getting a 30-yard touchdown pass from Punches to Joe Huston with 8:03 to go in the frame and Punches fired a 40-yard pass to Charlie Bugbee in the frame’s final minute. Jordan Gross ran in the two-point conversion to make it 20-0 entering the fourth.
“I don’t think it was overlooking them,” Luplow said of the struggles early on. “They were at such a high the week before it was hard to get that way two weeks in a row.”
In the final quarter Gross ran in for a 16-yard run and Bugbee recovered a fumble in the endzone with 8:15 to play in the game for the final score of the night. Logan Emery kicked in both extra points to bring the score to 34-0.
“I just thought we played defense well the whole night,” Luplow said. “We held them to 69 yards. Anytime you do that you’re certainly playing well.”
The Pioneers were led by Gross who ran 15 times for 88 yards and one touchdown, Punches ran 10 times for 23 yards and a score and Emery ran five times for 40 yards. Punches added 10-of-13 passing for 169 yards and two touchdowns with Huston making five receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown and Emery made four catches for 37 yards.
Joe McGuire made 10 tackles to lead the Clare defense, Kyler Zinser and Lee Cole both took down seven. Paul Cole, Emery and Nick Montini all had five tackles. Bugbee and Zach Betzer both had fumble recoveries.
Farwell was led by Noah Wilson with 29 yards rushing on 12 carries. Curtis Robinson completed three-of-five passes for 29 yards, finding Walter Mosby on all three completions.
Wilson added 11 tackles on defense, Trent Johns had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery and Devin Warner had nine tackles.
“We had some chances,” Esterline said. “We moved the ball but we had some mistakes. That’s been the story of our season.”
Clare (4-2 overall, 4-0 JPC) plays at Harrison (1-5, 1-3) tonight (Friday). The Pioneers topped Harrison 24-7 last year and the Hornets are coming off a 34-22 loss to Beaverton last week.
“The last two or three years we’ve had some big games with them,” Luplow said. “They’ve always been ready to play us. We are concerned about that, we have to be ready. If we play like we did in the first half against Farwell they’re going to beat us.
We have to be mentally prepare to go against Harrison because they’re going to come after us. Going up there isn’t going to be an easy task. I don’t care what their record is their going to be ready to play us.”
Farwell (1-5 overall, 0-4 JPC) plays at Beaverton (2-4, 2-2) tonight (Friday). The Beavers are coming of a 34-22 win over Harrison and also beat Farwell 20-14 last season.
“Their coach does a nice job with them,” Esterline said. “The key will be the turnover battle. That and whether we can stop them. We’re going to have to take care of our responsibilities to be successful.”