Meridian scored first. Clare scored second, third, fourth and fifth en route to a 27-7 win Friday night, giving the Pioneers at least a share of their sixth straight Jack Pine Conference football championship.
“I thought our kids were mentally ready for this game,” Clare head coach Kelly Luplow said. “We went to their field with a lot on the line for both teams and I feel we physically handled them. This is our sixth consecutive championship and that is quite an accomplishment for any team.”
The Mustangs opened the scoring with 6:55 left to play in the first quarter, getting a 77 yard touchdown pass from Kevin Scheibert to Christian Petre and added a Dan Burns extra point to go up 7-0.
Jordan Gross, in his first game back since missing several contests this with an injury, ran in for the equalizer from three yards out with 2:15 to play in the opening quarter. Logan Emery kicked the extra point to tie it at seven.
Gross found the endzone from seven yards out with 8:23 to play in the second quarter, adding another Emery extra point to put the Pioneers up 14-7 at the half.
Zack Tyler scored on an 18 yard run in the third quarter to put Clare up 20-7 and Tyler connected on a nine yard touchdown pass to Hunter Ruby in the fourth quarter, with Emery adding the extra point to make the final 27-7.
Gross finished with 33 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns, Tyler ran 13 times for 76 yards and one score while also completing eight-of-14 passes for 85 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Brock Swan had two catches for 46 yards, Ruby made three grabs for 24 yards and Spencer Harrell had three catches for 15 yards.
Mitch Greenacre led the team with nine tackles, Joe McGuire and Nick Montini both ahd seven, Lee Cole had six, Colton Punches had five tackles, three interceptions and a fumble recovery, Taylor Meixner had five tackles, Emery had a fumble recovery and Brandon Ayris had an interception.
The win not only clinches at least a share of the title, but punches Clare’s seventh straight trip to the post-season.
“I’m proud of how our guys came back from an 0-2 record at the beginning of the season and put together a steak of six wins with one to go,” Luplow said. “If we beat Beaverton we will win the league outright. If Beaverton beats us, we will share with Gladwin. It’s a huge game for us this wee.”
Clare (6-2 overall, 6-0 JPC) hosts Beaverton (4-4, 2-4) tonight. The Beavers fell to Roscommon 32-7 last week. The Pioneers won last year’s meeting between the teams 27-0 and have won 21 in a row against the Beavers, with their last loss coming in 1990 when they lost 15-12.
“Beaverton is a much improved team,” Luplow said. “They are doing it with very few guys but it’s obvious that they have had some success and feel some confidecne by the way they are playing. This will not be an easy game by any means. They will be ready to play. They are well coached and much more disciplined than they have been in the past. We need to be ready.”