A lot of people will be talking about the speed of the Morley-Stanwood offensive and defensive backfield. Others will shake their head at the accuracy, toughness and poise of their quarterback, Travis Zajkowski. The shearer physicality of the Mohawks front seven on both sides of the ball consistently blasting and grinding for penetration and surges is what ultimately was much more than what the Pioneers could overcome. 245 pound #69 Jack Clarence, 227 pound, #63 Markus Buckley, 225 pound #62 Tyler Wilcox, 190 pound #24 Steven Malloy and 170 pound #53 Matthew Parish were quicker to the point of attack and much more physically rigid. These five in particular were bruising head hunters and they set the tone and dictated the flow of the game. Morley-Stanwood won in convincing fashion at the Pioneer Stadium, 41-13.
On the third play from scrimmage Morley-Stanwood’s tailback, their world class sprinter, Tyler Hanks knifed off the left tackle on a sprint draw or a blast run, burst into the second layer, broke an arm tackle and exploded 62 yards down the sidelines for a touchdown gallop. The Mohawks were doing a war dance up 6-0. Hanks has a prototypical running back build comprised of thick bundles of muscle, long muscular legs that produced fluid high knee strides and he had that unusual explosiveness that chews up large chunks of yards as he’s looking effortless, patiently setting up blocks and bouncing past defenders.
M-S pooch kicked the ball short, scurried down and pounced on the ball to attain possession. After a couple of unproductive runs, the Mohawks ran Hanks wide left, but Todd Wysong was having none of that as he fended off a block and stuck the allusive back for a short loss.
On the ensuing play from scrimmage on 4th and 8, Zajkowski rolled out on a little bootleg right, rifled a bullet to an open Hanks who had run a precise deep 10 yard out. Hanks caught the ball with his hands and secured the rock for the huge chain moving first down.
Tough as nails, shifty running Adam Wheeler took the next hand-off for six yards down to the two yard-line. Hanks was stuffed initially by the Clare defensive front, his second and third efforts as he kept pumping his legs allowed him to penetrate across the goal-line to pay dirt. M-S converted the two-pointer via a lob to the corner, granting the Mohawks a 14-0 lead, sending a war-loop cry wave across the Morley-Stanwood bleachers.
Clare recovered the similar pooch kick. On the next play, Brent Luplow spiraled a fly route to a streaking, wide-open James Wezensky for 41 yards. Soon-after on 4th and 6, Luplow fired a wide-receiver screen pass to Wezensky. JW followed a nice pair of blocks, absorbed a hit and lunged forward, stretching the ball just a foot past the first down marker.
Jordan Gross took the following hand-off 12 yards unscathed for the touchdown, Hunter Ruby boomed the extra point kick to make the score 14-7.
After a couple solid runs by the Mohawks, a false start pushed them back five yards. Taylor Meixner strung out the next rush and tackled the Mohawk for a minimal gain. Meixner ripped down the next ballcarrier. Then on 3rd down, Meixner jumped up forcing the M-S QB to pump fake and bring the ball down, then Meixner chased him down and pulled him to the ground for the huge sack.
Luplow burst for 11 yards on Clare’s next play from scrimmage. Jackson Gross exploded through a hole, wiggled loose from a would be tackler and trotted for 24 yards. This was the last play of the first stanza, M-S held a 14-7 lead.
Luplow executed the option right play with textbook precision on the following play. Luplow carried the fake to the dive back, pulled out ran right at the oncoming outside linebacker until he fully committed, then pitched, leading Jackson Gross who was running full boar, Gross rumbled for 11 yards and a crucial 1st down. After an incomplete pass to a blanketed Aaron Haynak, Luplow floated a spiral to an open Wezensky in the back of the end-zone. The PAT was off and Clare only trailed by one, 14-13 with 9:22 left in the first half. This was the closest the Pioneers would get to the Mohawks.
Hopkins erupted up the gut for 43 yards as Wysong hustled to make a shoe-string tackle. Wheeler plunged from two yards out shortly after, the score was now 20-13.
On the following possession, Luplow launched a dime to an open Wysong, who let the ball bounce off his numbers to force a punt.
Zajkowski barreled forward to convert first downs on consecutive 4th and shorts. A couple plays later, the punishing Mitch Greenacre whipped down a Mohawk. They then threw an incomplete pass on 4th turning the ball over on downs. With time running down in the first half, Luplow threw a ball up for grabs which was intercepted, luckily Greenacre b-lined and crushed the M-S player to end the first half.
Jackson Gross ripped off five rugged yards. Jordan Gross sliced for nine. Then Jackson blazed out 14 more. Then Hanks broke up a pass to Haynak. The next play Hanks, who had great inside position, was step for step with Haynak, rose up and intercepted Luplow’s pass. A few plays later, Hanks snatched a pass and rolled 87 yards to pay dirt. This made the score 27-13.
On Clare’s next possession an illegal procedure penalty halted some momentum obtained by the Gross brothers. Then after catching a 40 yard pass down the middle, Haynak dropped a pass on 4th and two, the contorting of his body was a very athletic maneuver, but he just couldn’t hang on. At the conclusion of the third quarter, the Mohawks led 27-13.
Clare was really making M-S work for every yard they got at this point, you still felt like their was a chance that with a couple of huge turnovers or explosive plays, Clare could be right back in the game. On 4th and four, Zajkowski dropped back, lofted a seed right into the hands of his receiver who just slipped past Haynak who had come off his man to help the blown coverage. This 35 yard touchdown pass made it a 34-13 game. The next possession for M-S saw Wheeler blow up a would be tackler and shift into another gear that no Clare defender had left in their arsenal at that time as he bolted for the 58 yard touchdown to the house, this drove in the dagger, making the scoreboard 41-13. Luplow completed a couple passes to sophomore Colton Punches and Wysong came back to make a spectacular lunging catch for 20 yards, but the Mohawks were the superior team on this night.
“They beat us up front. Morley controlled the line of scrimmage and that’s how you win football games. They had great speed at every position. Morley was a very physical team on both sides of the ball. What really impressed me was the physicality of their secondary and their ability to close and recover. Their DBs were really quick to the ball and tough,” commented Clare’s storied Coach Kelly Luplow. “It hurts every year to see the seniors play their last game in green and white. This especially aches and is emotional because it’s my son’s final game and I’m especially proud of these seven boys who stuck it out all the way through. My hats off to Morley-Stanwood, they were a better football team than we were.”
Jackson Gross, Brent Luplow, Aaron Haynak, James Wezensky, Kameron Hawley, Tyler Simon and Todd Wysong all laced up their cleats, strapped up the shoulder pads, pulled on the helmet and sported the green and white for the last time. The Jack Pine Tribune would like to wish all seven seniors good luck with their future endeavors and thank those boys for playing their hearts out each time we had the privilege to report on their ballgames.
Morley-Stanwood amassed 453 total yards compared to the 281 yards tallied as an aggregate total for the CHS fellas. The Mohawk’s Steven Hopkins compiled 103 yards as he spun, churned and pumped his legs for additional yards after initial contact. The primay offensive force for the Mohawks was speedster, Tyler Hanks. Hanks was electrifying as he chalked up 98 tough rushing yards.
The Jack Pine Conference’s Most Valuable Player and Clare High School’s single season rushing record holder, Jackson Gross compiled 95 yards rushing via 20 carries. His younger brother, sophomore, Jordan Gross amassed 37 yards rushing on just six rushes, including a touchdown. Brent Luplow was 8-22 passing and 127 yards through the air. He threw one touchdown, unfortunately he had several dropped passes that would have been huge gains and he tossed three interceptions.
James Wezensky caught three passes for 52 yards and a TD. Colton Punches and Aaron Haynak each received two passes.
Punishing inside linebacker, Mitch Greenacre was blowing up lead blockers, splitting double teams and roaming from sideline to sideline making bone jarring hits. Greenacre tallied 23 tackles to lead his Pioneers.
Rugged, no holds barr junior defensive end, Taylor Meixner chased down 17 tackles. Feisty junior defensive back, James Simon ripped down 17 tackles as well. Jordan Gross crushed 16 tackles from his outside linebacker spot. Lee Cole, Patrick Hughes and Joe McGuire all compiled 13 tackles. This Clare team has a lot of fierce, talent laden players who will be returning next fall.