By Ben Murphy
Clare trailed entering the fourth quarter of Friday night’s home Jack Pine Conference game with Roscommon. However in the fourth quarter the Pioneer levied three touchdowns to come away with a 43-28 win.
“It was a big night for us, getting a share of the conference title (seventh straight) and getting a playoff berth” Clare head coach Kelly Luplow said. “That’s the way things have been going around here for the last 10 years or so. We look forward to those opportunities and we were fortunate enough to do it again.”
The Bucks took a 28-22 lead into the fourth quarter after a 16-yard touchdown run by Caleb Jernigan gave them the lead, but early in the fourth Colton Punches ran in from five yards out and kicker Camden Dice made good on the extra-point to put the Pioneers back up at 29-28.
From there Roscommon was its own worst enemy, turning the ball over twice in the quarter with Clare capitalizing both teams for touchdowns. First the Pioneers got a four yard touchdown run by Jordan Gross to put them up 36-28 and then Clare put the game out of reach with an eight yard touchdown run by Punches that made it 43-28.
“Roscommon played probably as well as they have all year,” Luplow said. “They played three and a half quarters of great football, they just had a couple bad turnovers against us in the fourth. I feel good about how we played against them, they were a tough team to stop.”
The night started out in a see-saw battle, with the outcome in doubt for the first three quarters.
Roscommon opened up the scoring with a six-yard run by Jernigan and got the extra point to lead 7-0. Gross answered with a 15-yard touchdown run and Gross also ran in the two-pointer to put his team ahead 8-7 after the first.
Roscommon reclaimed the lead on a 66-yard touchdown quarterback keeper by John Miller and booted in the point after touchdown to make it 14-8, though Gross responded with another touchdown, this time from 14-yards out. Dice kicked the extra point through to make it 15-14.
“Gross had a great night both offensively and defensively,” Luplow said. “He had the big yards and he had a couple of picks on defense. He had a big night, it was nice to see that, he looked good all the way around.”
The Bucks took a 21-15 lead into the half on a five yard touchdown run by Brett Jobin. Gross put the Pioneers back up in the third quarter at 22-21 on a nine-yard run, leading to Jernigan’s go-ahead score just before the fourth quarter.
“They were very effective in their offensive execution and had it not been for those couple turnovers in the fourth I don’t know what the game would have turned out to be,” Luplow said. “That was a very well prepared Roscommom team that played here.”
Gross finished with 231 yards and four touchdowns rushing on 31 carries and Logan Emery ran three times for 28 yards. Punches was two-of-six passing for 32 yards and ran 13 times for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
Joe Huston had one catch for 21yards and Charlie Bugbee had a catch for 11 yards.
Joe McGuire led the Clare defense with 11 tackles, Lee Cole, Emery, Tyler Gillespie and Seth Harton all had nine tackles with Harton also adding a sack. Kyler Zinser blocked a punt and Huston had a fumble recovery and Gross had two interceptions.
Clare (6-2 overall, 6-0 JPC) hosts Meridian (7-1, 5-1) a team they beat 27-7 last year, tonight (Friday). The Mustangs topped Beaverton 36-0 last week. A win clinches the outright JPC title for Clare and could give it enough playoff points to host a post-season game.
“Our main theme this week is just that,” Luplow said. “We want to win the title outright and we want to have an opportunity to host in the playoffs. The only way we can do that is with a win. They’re a good football team. They beat Roscommon earlier in the year so I’m sure it’s going to be a battle.”