By Ben Murphy
Clare head football coach Kelly Luplow doesn’t like taking moral victories from losses. Friday night’s 38-13 to four-time defending division six state champion Ithaca is about as close as he’d like to get to feeling good about a loss.
“I thought overall, for the first game, I’m not totally disappointed,” he said of losing to a team that’s won 57-straight games. “Nobody likes to lose but we played the number one team in the state and to be down only 21-7 at the half, that’ snot a huge deficit so we weren’t disappointed.”
Early on it looked as if Clare might just give Ithaca a battle for one of the few times during its improbable run. After playing through a scoreless first quarter, Clare scored on a 72 yard pass play from Travis Vida to Joe Huston. Camden Dice followed with an extra point, giving the Pioneers a 7-0 lead.
That lead was short lived however, as on the ensuing kickoff Ithaca’s Ryan Buckley brought back the kick 80 yards for a touchdown. A Jacob Pierce extra point made it 7-7.
Then, within a span of five minutes Ithaca quarterback Jacob Smith threw for two touchdowns, the first of which went to Myles Waldron for 50 yards and the second to Spence Dumell for 36 yards. Pierce nailed both of his ensuing extra points to make it 21-7 at the half.
“Their three touchdowns in the first half were all on big plays,” Luplow said. “We had a hard time stopping their quarterback, he’s awfully good and he’s only a junior. We had him in our grasp a few times but he just got loose. When he started running around it created attacking lanes for him to get rid of the ball and his receivers are really good at coming back to the ball.”
The Yellowjackets added two more touchdowns in the third quarter, the first on a seven yard pass from Smith to Dumell and the second on a 16 yard rush by Grant Gimmey. Pierce made both of those extra points as well and rounded out Ithaca’s scoring with a 20 yard field goal with 9:52 left to play in the fourth quarter.
Clare capped off its night on a 55 yard touchdown pass from Vida to Will Boberg, maing the final 38-13.
“I thought we saw a lot of good things but we made too many mistakes,” Luplow said. “We had penalties in key situations and their kickoff return really hurt us. We had all this excitement flowing on our sidelines after we scored and then the return the kickoff back and the momentum switched just like that and we were never able to regain any of it.
“It certainly gives you a gauge on where you’re at and what you need to work on,” Luplow added of playing a strong team in its
opener. “We go from a wide open spread team in Ithaca to Beal Ciy who’s completely different. We play two strong teams right off the bat this year and both have solid programs. I told the kids as long as we’re playing hard and doing the best we can, if we don’t win the game that’s how life is.”
Ben Bates finished with 10 rushes for 49 yards and Ryan Seiter ran for nine yards. Vida finished seven-of-15 passing for 169 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, 93 of those yards going to Huston on four catches and 52 more going to Bolberg on three grabs. Paul Cale added one catch for 17 yards.
Chuck Zinser led the defense with 10 tackles, Zach Betzer had seven, Cole and Seiter both had six with Seiter also recovering a fumble.
Clare (0-1) plays at Beal City (1-0) tonight. The Aggies, back-to-back division eight runner-up are coming off a 53-17 win over Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart last week. Beal City has topped Clare the last two seasons as well.
“They’re a typical Beal City team,” Luplow said. “They’re not real big but they’re very physical, they’re quick and have good team speed. They run a ‘T’ offense and run it well, the come right at you. Once again we will have to cut down on our mistakes… We just have to play as well as we can and hope for the best.”
Photos by Kim Langlois