Clare succumbs to a stellar Freeland ballclub
By: Eric Dion
On occasion, the Tribune boys look at a game and write the headline before the teams even take the field. The title for this one was once “Clare Rolls” and it was assumed that we would be writing the content to go with the title. The Pioneers are considered the team to beat by the rest of the Jack Pine Conference, and they have the talent to live up to the hype. However, every time a team takes the field, there is a chance they could walk off it without a victory, and today was that day for Clare.
The game started out in the Pioneer’s favor, when one play after the kickoff Freeland attempted a short pass that was picked off by Spencer Harrell. Zack Tyler led his team out on the field and immediately began executing the master plan of Coach Luplow. Jordan Gross saw most of the early plays, tearing holes in the Freeland defense, and making plays where none should be had. On one occasion, Gross was dragging four defenders on his back on the way to a first down. Clare looked like a team that was ready to take the big lead early, with Tyler handing the ball off to James Simon on the option play to bring them down to a third and goal early in the first quarter. The drive would be cut short when Freeland’s defense began to swarm to the ball early, and Clare would relinquish control after a failed fourth down and half-yard attempt for the early score.
Freeland’s offense was finding ways to create holes in Clare’s Defense with some sweeps and quarterback keepers early, with Mitch Greenacre being the only redeeming quality for Clare’s defensive squad. Just when it looked like Freeland would march unopposed to the end zone, Zack Tyler managed to corral an errant fumble by Freeland, and Clare was once again on the attack. The first quarter would end scoreless, and Clare looked to take control.
Clare went to a hurry up offense early in the second quarter, and Zack Tyler had Freeland’s defense stunned as he cut back and forth in a flurry of three different QB sneaks that had the opponent’s coaching staff frothing at the mouth in frustration. Despite brilliant maneuvers by both teams on offense, the defensive squads kept the scoring at bay. Freeland managed a field goal in the second quarter to put them up 3-0, and Clare was unable to match that when their kicker booted the ball low and to the right near the end of the half.
The second half began with Clare getting the ball, and Zack Tyler seemed to take the burden of gaining yards on his back as he speed-slashed his way through defenders. Clare did find themselves in a punting situation however, after a botched snap which resulted in a personal foul penalty for Freeland for roughing the kicker, the Freeland coaching staff was in an uproar and the Clare stands were in a frenzy of anticipation and defiance as both sides filled the air with the sounds of screams and chants. The Pioneer warlords looked to take full advantage of the madness, with Zack Tyler and Jordan Gross once again steamrolling toward Freeland’s end zone. Their drive would once again be cut short and Clare would be forced to punt the ball away. Clare’s defense got fired up and put the stop to Freeland’s ensuing drive after a couple of referee calls that Clare felt should have gone their way, and the Pioneer stands never stopped screaming in support of their team. Unfortunately, Clare’s offensive line was unable to open any holes for their running game, and Clare looked at yet another fourth and long punt situation.
Freeland began to take over offensively, and used time of possession as their ally, using sweeps and quarterback keepers to gain precious yards and keep the clock moving. At the end of the third quarter, Freeland still had the ball and a three-point advantage on Clare. Freeland would rumble their way into the end zone with a quarterback sneak, putting time against Clare with a ten-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Zack Tyler began airing the ball out, and found Spencer Harrell on a nice sideline route, which fired up the crowd as well as the other players on the sidelines. Staring down a fourth and seven on Freeland’s 26-yard line, Zack Tyler sends a laser over the middle to Brock Swan for a first down and goal to go. Tyler found Colton Punches in the end zone for the score, and fighting against time and a three-point difference with little time left in the game as the extra point brought them to 10-7.
The kicking game did not help their cause much; as the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds to put Freeland up to the 35-yard line to begin their next drive. The Defense fed off the screams of the crowd and the coaching staff, causing Freeland to go three-and-out, with 2:45 left to work with.
The offense went to work quickly, with Tyler slinging one out toward the sideline to bean Ramos who managed to get out of bounds at Freeland’s 47-yard line. Another sneak by Tyler got the offense to the 42 with a third and inches situation. Tyler would quickly get his offense to the line and execute a brilliant fake handoff that he managed to keep himself to get his team to the 5-yard line for a first down and a chance to put the game away. Unfortunately, a fumbled snap and two failed run attempts put the team in a fourth down situation, and the final field goal attempt would go wide right to stun the crowd, as Clare would start their season with a 10-7 loss.
Coach Luplow reflected on his team’s performance by stating, “We knew coming into this game that it was going to be a competitive game coming into it, we have two different styles of offense and defense. I can’t tell you how many times over the years it has come down to an end like this. For a few years, we came out on top and for the past couple of years they have. There were some young mistakes, and we will get better, I’m not worried about that.”
When asked about their status in the conference, and how they are picked to be first in it, Coach Luplow replied, “I don’t know about that right now, I think we still have some work to do, but I think we have the personnel to do it with.”
Zack Tyler ended up going seven for thirteen for 108 yards passing, with one touchdown and no interceptions. He also rushed 14 times for 79 yards and had a fumble recovery. Jordan Gross rolled for 64 yards on 16 carries, and helped with 9 tackles defensively. Spencer Harrell had one catch for 25 yards and was second for tackles defensively with 15. Colton Punches had two catches for 21 yards and the team’s only touchdown. Defensively, Mitch Greenacre once again showed his power by leading the team with 18 tackles. Lee Cole contributed defensively as well putting in 10 tackles. As a team, Clare put up 262 yards offensively compared to Freeland’s 209 yards and yet Freeland seemed to own time of possession.
Clare will probably make the next team pay for this loss by steamrolling into them with a fury unseen in the conference for years; however, this loss was a wake-up call for a squad of talented individuals.