By Ben Murphy
Photos by Kim Langlois
Clare just doesn’t lose Jack Pine Conference football games. Friday night the Pioneers made visiting Gladwin its latest victim by winning 30-13, this time on Homecoming Night.
“Our kids were ready to go from the very beginning and played the best game we’ve played yet this year,” Clare head coach Kelly Luplow said of the Pioneers 22nd straight league win. “They were very physical and well prepared for the game and just came out charged up and never backed off.”
The Pioneer defense set the tone in the game, keeping the Flying G’s scoreless through the first three quarters.
“I feel real good about the way we played,” Luplow said. “We knew Gladwin had a lot of skill, a lot of talent and a lot of speed. We were concerned about them coming onto our turf with all their speed but I thought our defense really stepped up. When you have your defense shutting another team down it makes your offense go a whole lot smoother.”
The offense got its first score with 7:44 to play in the first quarter, on a one-yard quarterback keeper by Colton Punches. Camden Dice booted in the extra point to make it 7-0.
The Pioneers took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter on a 21-yard pass from Punches to Charlie Bugbee and another Dice point after touchdown.
Jordan Gross scored again for Clare with 4:38 left in the half, and also ran in the two-point conversion to make it 22-0 at the break.
Gross found pay-dirt again in the third quarter, with Punches running in the two-pointer to make it 30-0.
Gladwin scored twice in the fourth quarter, once on a two-yard run with 11:12 to play and the second on a five-yard run with 39 seconds left to play.
“It’s only one game but having beat them helps a lot,” Luplow said. “I really didn’t know how good we were or how good they were but this game gave us a little more of a gauge on where we’re at, how good we are and where we still need to be at.”
Gross finished with 126 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries and Logan Emery ran eight times for 31 yards.
Punches finished seven-of-10 passing for 151 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Punches also added 44 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
Joe Huston had four catches for 81 yards and Bugbee made three grabs for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Joe McGuire led the defense with 11 tackles, Punches had six and Brenden Hensley had five. Tyler Gillespie had four tackles and two sacks and Gross recovered a fumble.
Clare (3-2 overall, 3-0 JPC) plays at Farwell (1-4, 0-3) tonight (Friday). Farwell is coming off a 47-13 loss to Roscommon last week. The Pioneers have won every regular season meeting of the Five-Mile Rivalry since 1999. Farwell’s last regular season win in the series came in a 29-7 win in 1998, though the Eagles won the playoff meeting in 2010. Clare won last year’s contest 37-6.
“They haven’t had a lot of success this year but as the past has shown us you can’t overlook a rivarly,” Luplow said. “We’re five miles apart, the kids know each other and it’s one of those bragging rights things. We know there’s a target on our back every week within our league. We know that everybody wants to get us so we can’t let our guard down regardless of who they are.”