There are many great games across the Michigan Sports Radio coverage area this week. One of the most under-discussed battles has to be between Martin and Mendon. These two SWMFL-I foes will battle for the conference title, as well as potential playoff seeding.
Martin comes in with an unblemished 6-0 record. They have outscored their opponents 288-18 in five games. After a shortened game against Bloomingdale, and a forfeit against Eau Claire last Friday, the Clippers are chomping at the bit to get back on the field. “We are so excited for this opportunity,” head coach Brad Blauvelt shared in a phone call earlier this week. “Without a game last week, and with some weaker opponents behind us, we are excited for the challenge that stands in front of us on Friday.”
On offense for the Clippers, it all starts with JR Hildebrand. He has accounted for 20 total touchdowns this fall, with 4 passing and 16 on the ground. On just 36 carries, Hildebrand has tallied up 605 yards, a remarkable 16.8 yards per carry. He is not the only weapon on this team, as Braeden Shanley, Karter Ribble, Sam Jager and Tagean Harris factor into this offense that has rushed for around 2,000 yards in 5 games.
The collective speed is something that worries Mendon Head Coach Robert Kretschman about this ball game. “This is a well-coached team that is very fast. With their team speed, it seems like every player they put on the field can move. Offensively, they have a lot of weapons. Their backs run hard, and their receivers make catches and block in space, but their quarterback (Hildebrand) is the difference maker. He can beat you with his legs and harm, he is the real deal.”
For Mendon, they enter this game with a 5-1 record. Their lone loss came in a 45-0 defeat at the hands of Bridgman. They have won handily the past two weeks, setting the stage for this bout. “Our team has improved each week,” Kretschman stated. “We learned some things from the Bridgman game, and as a staff and a team, we have shown a lot of growth. I feel like we have yet to put together a full game, and that is something we must do this week against Martin.”
Mendon’s offense also relies heavily on the ground game. Evan Lukeman leads the way with 1365 yards and 17 touchdowns on 103 carries. Quarterback Chris Dupree, who has also thrown for three scores, has turned 75 carries into 708 yards and 12 scores. As a team, Mendon has rushed for 2,542 yards in six games, an average of 424 yards per game.
The physical nature of this game is something that both coaches spoke about in previewing this showdown. “We need to play physical,” Brad Blauvelt shared. “They are an extremely physical team. Their lineman know where they need to go, and they open up holes to run up the middle. It’s going to be a battle, and we need to play assignment football. They are extremely well-coached, they are disciplined in their assignments, and this is going to be a big challenge for our team. We think that we can score, but their offense is extremely talented.”
Echoing the same sentiment, Coach Kretschman emphasized his team’s need to control the pace. “We need to establish some drives, working to slow the game down. We need to try and use our size to our advantage offensively, get our lineman to keep on their blocks, and our backs into the second level. We need to play sound, disciplined football. Their offense spreads you out, requiring us to tackle in space. We need to play to our assignments, because if one guy doesn’t do his job, we will get exposed.”
This battle is set to take place on Friday night at 7:00 at Martin High School. Complete coverage of this game, the rest of the SWMFL, and other key matchups in West Michigan can be found on Michigan Sports Radio on Friday night, and in recaps on Saturday morning.