Clare Wins Battle of Unbeatens in Defensive Struggle

October 9, 2019

Clare’s Alex Warner runs for tough yardage during the Pioneers’ 3-2 victory over Meridian.
The Clare Football team bursts onto the field before the start of the game.
The Clare marching band performs.

by Ben Murphy
Sports Writer

It’s safe to say that the 3-2 week five win over Meridian wasn’t how the Clare football team drew it up. The contest was started on Friday and had to be completed on Saturday after a weather delay in the fourth quarter and the only offensive points of game came in the form of an Alec Hoffman field-goal.

“It was definitely interesting,” head coach Kelly Luplow said. “There were two firsts I experienced here; having to finish a game a day later for the second time in a season and having a 3-2 score; we’ve never had that. I don’t think we expected this kind of game. It was a good game, but we thought there would be some more scoring on both sides.”
Clare was able to crack the scoreboard in the second quarter, getting a 26-yard field-goal by Hoffman.

“We’ve been fortunate the last few years, having soccer players come in and kick the last six seasons and that has really paid off,” Luplow said. “We’ve had some outstanding performances by kickers and it just says a lot about those guys. Hoffman has not missed a kick yet this year, it’s quite phenomenal for someone who hasn’t played the game until this year. A lot of people overlook the fact that a kicker is important, but he just showed how important it is in big games like this.”

The Clare offense gave up a safety in the third quarter to see its lead shrink to 3-2 and had to hold off the Mustangs, which outgained the Pioneers 168-126 the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter on Saturday when the game was halted due to lightening. All this between a team in Clare that averaged 43 points a game coming in and Meridian, which had averaged 39 points a game.

“The defenses stepped up on both sides, but our defense had a shutout against a very good team and we’re proud of that,” Luplow said. “We have to get back to the drawing board this week with our offense and our offensive line, we just have to get better on that side that’s all there is to
Shane Jenkins finished two-of-12 passing for 42 yards and he also led the ground game with 51 yards on 13 attempts. Colt Smedley added 21 yards rushing while Drew Schuster had one reception for 27 yards and Jon Bouchey had one grab for 15 yards.

Bouchey also led the defense with 13 tackles, Josh Gould had 12 tackles and Smedley had eight tackles. Jenkins hauled in an interception on defense and Manmit Singh recovered a fumble.

“Our defense is playing so well and we had a good defensive plan coming in, thanks to defensive coordinator Doug Haggart,” Luplow said. “Tiernan Gallagher, Gavin Cantu, Kyle Townsend and Dylan Schalm all had great games up front, shutting them down and our linebackers and secondary took over from there. We had some goal line stands and big fourth down stops that really turned things around. The guys up front deserve a lot of credit for that.”

Clare (5-0 overall, 4-0 JPC) looks to keep its perfect record intact today (Friday) when it welcomes Pinconning (0-5, 0-4). The Spartans, who are in their first season in the JPC are coming off a 37-20 loss to Gladwin last week.
“We are playing a team that hasn’t won a game yet and it is homecoming, so those two things concern me,” Luplow said. “A team that hasn’t won a game usually isn’t that bad, just like a team that is undefeated isn’t always that good. They are not as bad as their record is and if we start thinking we’re so good because we are 5-0, that’s when we’ll get knocked off. If we play well, we will be OK but if go in and think it is going to be a cakewalk then we’ll get in trouble.”

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