By Ben Murphy
Photo By Kim Langlois
Don’t let the fact that Clare handled Roscommon on Oct. 5 fool you. Veteran Clare head coach Kelly Luplow knows that in the playoffs there are no gimmies. So when the Bucks (6-3) visit the Pioneers (7-2) tonight for a division five pre-district playoff contest, a win is anything but guaranteed.
“When you play a team a second time, it’s never quite like the first,” Luplow said. “We beat them 34-7 three weeks ago but we had to play Meridian (in the playoffs) last year… We beat them pretty good in the regular season but we had to fight to beat them in the playoffs. A couple years ago we beat Farwell in the regular season and in the playoffs they beat us. That second time concerns me, you have to be that much better the second time around.”
Buck’s head coach Joe Holloway, in his second year with team, is grateful for a second chance to upend Clare after failing to do so in week seven.
“In our first meeting we didn’t take full advantage of some of our opportunities,” Holloway said. “We had the ball inside the five yard line two times in the first half and we came away with no points. We played well for 20 minutes of the first half and then we allowed them to score 15 points in four minutes. Great teams will do that when you give them opportunities like we did.”
Even though this is Roscommon’s first trip to the post-season since 2006 and this is Clare’s seventh straight trip, the Buck’s don’t appear to be intimidated by the Pioneer’s playoff pedigree.
“When we saw we opened with Clare we knew we had a lot of work,” Holloway said. “Kelly is a great coach and he has a great staff who knows how to win in the playoffs. Our kids knew they could have played better in that first game and now we have to go out and prove it.”
In that first meeting Zack Tyler threw for 104 yards and two touchdowns for Clare in the squad’s and the Pioneers ran for 184 yards as a team in a contest without Jordan Gross, who has since returned to lead the Pioneer’s in rushing the last two weeks. Roscommon’s Brett Jobin ran for 96 yards and Hunter Mires and John Miller combined to throw for 109 yards.
“I think offensively we just have to come out of the gate a lot more prepared mentally,” Luplow said of keys to a win. “Turnovers and special teams are the two things that seem to turn a lot of games around at every level. If you have strong special teams and you don’t have turnovers most likely you’re going to win the game, that’s just the way this sport operates.
“Defensively we just have to be ready,” Luplow added. “Not a lot of teams have had a lot of success running the ball so our pass coverage is going to be important. More and more teams are throwing the against us because they’re having such a hard time running the ball.”