By Ben Murphy
Photos By Kim Langlois
Clare’s offense may have been sleepwalking Friday night but its defense was wide awake. The Pioneers, playing in Harrison used a dominant defensive effort to win 21-0.
“I knew that they’d be ready to play us and play hard,” Clare head coach Kelly Luplow said. “They’ve had a lot of injuries and when you have that it’s hard to get anything going. The kids that they do have played hard and we witnessed that. They certainly didn’t turn their backs on us, they came right at us. Just as it has been the last few years it was a hard fought football game and we had to fight for everything we had.”
Clare entered the Jack Pine Conference contest heavily favored over the one-win Hornets, but things came anything but easy for the Pioneers.
Clare did score in the first quarter, getting a Colton Punches touchdown pass to Charlie Bugbee from 26-yards. Camden Dice kicked in the extra point to give Clare the 7-0 lead.
From there the two squads were in a defensive battle.
“We struggled to get anything going offensively,” Luplow said. “Defensively, we’ve been great all year but for some reason we just struggle early with offense and then have to fight near the end to get it to go.”
Harrison meanwhile was equally frustrated on offense.
“Clare did a good job controlling the line of scrimmage,” Harrison head coach Mike Petrongelli said. “We had a hard time generating any kind of offense at all.”
The score remained 7-0 entering the fourth quarter, where the Pioneers put in two scores to give themselves breathing room.
Jordan Gross scored the first touchdown of the quarter on a monster 54-yard touchdown run, breaking five would-be tackles to romp in for the score.
“He broke a tackle just past the line of scrimmage,” Luplow said. “There were four other people that made contact with him that had an opportunity to tackle him and then he got a key block near the end to get into the end-zone. He’s a tough kid and a hard runner.
“He’s a very physical runner and he has some decent moves too,” Luplow added. “He doesn’t just run straight, he can go laterally too with some quickness. He’s a tough kid to bring down one-on-one I know that.”
The score also helped the coach breath a little easier.
“When we got that score I felt a whole lot better,” Luplow said. “They’re not a quick scoring team and our defense was shutting them down. I’m just very pleased with our defense and how well and how hard they’re playing. We just need to be more consistent offensively.”
Late in the game Clare put icing on the cake, getting Punches to score on a one-yard quarterback sneak, followed by Dice’s third extra point of the night.
“The kids played hard but we just couldn’t get a break and couldn’t generate much offense,” Petrongelli said. “Tough game. We had a hard time controlling the offensive line but the defense played hard. We played hard and never let up.”
Clare was led by Gross who ran 16 times for 142 yards and one touchdown, Punches had 45 yards and one touchdown on seven carries and Logan Emery ran seven times for 34 yards.
Punches was six-of-15 passing for 54 yards and one touchdown with Bugbee making three catches for 38 yards and one touchdown.
Lee Cole led Clare with 11 tackles, Joe McGuire had eight, Zach Merchant, Zach Betzer, Punches, Seth Harton, Brenden Gyulveszi, Nick Montini, Emery and Tyler Gillespie all had six tackles. Cole and Harton both added one sack apiece.
The Hornets were led by Justin Yager with 45 yards on nine carries, Matt Haskell had 38 yards on 12 carries and Josh Wilson ran 15 times for 25 yards.
Yager was three-of-eight passing for 26 yards, getting one completion to Trent Searight for 12 yards and one to Coughling for 14 yards.
Coughlin added 15 tackles to lead the defense, Michael Taylor had eight tackles and one sack, Jerrod Given, Yager, and Clay Dennis all had five tackles, with Dennis getting two sacks.
Clare (5-2 overall, 5-0 JPC) hosts Roscommon (4-3, 3-2) tonight (Friday). The Bucks beat Houghton Lake 33-24 last week, though Clare beat Roscommon in both contests last year, including a 33-0 playoff win.
“We’re concerned about it,” Luplow said of the game. “We have a chance to make the playoffs and get a share of the league championship and it’s a playoff game for them so they’re going to come in ready to play.”
Also of concern is Roscommon senior running back, Brett Jobin who has rushed well over 100 yards most games this season.
“He has close to 1500 yards rushing so he’s the real deal,” Luplow said. “We have to figure out a way to slow him down and keep everyone else at bay. We just have to play good team defense and see what happens.”
Harrison (1-6 overall, 1-4 JPC) plays at Houghton Lake (0-7, 0-5) tonight. Though the Bobcats are winless the Petrongelli pointed out the fact that they played Roscommon tough last week and are improving under first year head coach Tim VanWormer.
“He had a good program at Frankenmuth so I think he’s trying to develop that at Houghton Lake,” Petrongelli said. “We’re going to have to play hard and not many any mistakes.”