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After a huge sack Clare guard Tyler Gillespie (55) celebrates with teammate Nick Montini (52) against Gladwin Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. (Sun photo by KEN KADWELL/@KenKadwell)
PREP FOOTBALL: Clare cruises past Gladwin on homecoming night
Clare wide receiver Charlie Bugbee (1) runs for a first down against Gladwin Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. (Sun photo by KEN KADWELL/@KenKadwell).
Clare quarterback Colton Punches (20) looks for an open receiver against Gladwin Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. (Sun photo by KEN KADWELL/@KenKadwell).
Don’t look now, but Clare is beginning to click in Clare-like fashion.
The Pioneers, which have won at least eight games each of the past six years, was dealt a pair of setbacks to begin this season to a couple of powerful opponents in Beal City and Freeland.
But since then, Clare has regrouped and ripped off three straight Jack Pine Conference wins with the latest being a 30-14 triumph over Gladwin Friday on what was homecoming night for the Pioneers.
“You have to understand, not only were we playing against a couple of tough opponents those first two weeks but we were working in a new quarterback in Colton Punches who had never started a game,” said Clare head coach Kelly Luplow. “Now these kids are gaining confidence with every win especially tonight against a Gladwin team that has some very good talent. We’re very pleased with this win tonight.”
After the initial two defeats to begin the season, Clare is now 3-2 overall and 3-0 in conference play.
The Pioneers have now defeated the Flying G’s 11 straight years, dating back to when Gladwin joined the JPC in 2002.
Senior Jordan Gross was once again the focal point for the Clare offense after coming in averaging 7.5 yards per carry. While he did not meet that per-carry average against Gladwin, he was the workhorse all night long as he rushed 32 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the winning effort.
Luplow admitted after the game that 32 carries might be a little more than he wants Gross to have on a weekly basis, but also that the game plan is almost always circled around feeding him the football.
“He does a great job opening some things up for us in the passing game,” Luplow said. “I think we only threw the ball once in the second half, but up until then we had some big plays in the passing game. A couple of them you might call lucky, but we had one-on-one coverage out there and we were able to take some shots.”
Clare got on the board on on its first drive as a 42-yard pass from Punches to Charlie Bugbee on the third play of the game put the hosts at the Gladwin 15-yard line, then Punches ran in a 1-yard keeper five plays later. A Camden Dice point-after kick made it a 7-0 game.
Meanwhile, the Pioneers defense made life for Gladwin extremely difficult particularly in the second half. Gladwin ended up with 166 total yards in the game, but many of those were late after the score was out of reach. The Flying G’s finished the first half with only 29 yards of total offense.
Tyler Gillespie led the Clare effort defensively with two first-half sacks.
“Our defense did a great job tonight stopping the running game,” said Luplow. “We put some different coverages in. They have some skilled athletes that can run and we shut them down pretty well.”
While a turnover cost Clare on its second drive of the game, it put it in again on the third drive via a Punches 21-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Bugbee. Punches escaped a vicious pass rush on the play to by more time and found Bugbee wide open for the score, putting the Pioneers ahead 14-0 with 7:33 to go in the second quarter.
Punches eventually finished the game 7-of-10 for 146 yards and one touchdown pass along with two interceptions, while rushing for an additional 46 yards and a touchdown.
“He is getting better and better every week. He is a lot more comfortable,” Luplow said.
Clare added one more score before halftime as Gross punched in a 3-yarder with 4:38 to go in the second quarter. It was set up by a 38-yard pass-and-catch from Punches to Joe Huston and a Gross 15-yard run. After Gladwin committed a penalty on the extra-point, the Pioneers opted to go for two and Gross ran it in to push the lead to 22-0.
In the third quarter, Gross scored again on a 3-yard run at the 5:35 mark. Clare again went for the two-point conversion following a Gladwin penalty and Punches ran it in to up the lead to 30-0.
The Flying G’s managed to get on the scoreboard with 11:12 left in the fourth quarter on a Ritchie-Mathis two-yard run, drawing within 30-7. Another score was added with 39 seconds remaining on a 5-yard Steven Esiline TD run.
“That was a big game for us. Our kids were ready to play,” added Luplow.
Clare gained a total of 353 yards in the winning effort. Bugbee caught three passes for 70 yards, while Huston had four receptions for 76.
The Pioneers travel a short distance to Farwell next Friday for a 7 p.m. start.
PHOTO GALLERY FROM FRIDAY'S WIN BELOW
Last Updated: 9/27/2013 11:27:05 PM EST