The Martin Clippers started off their 2022 season with one of the toughest opponents on their schedule. Martin welcomed Mendon, a foe that produced two epic battles a season ago, for their home opener. There were major SWMFL-I title implications on the line in the season’s first game. This game went down to the wire, with Martin holding on for a 30-28 victory.
In the first quarter, there was just one scoring play. JR Hildebrand found Taegan Harris on a 34-yard touchdown strike. Sam Jager‘s two-point conversion gave the Clippers an early 8-0 edge.
Jack McCaw, who Mendon Coach Bobby Kretschman named as one of the ‘notable newcomers’ to his team this fall, announced his presence in a big way on Friday night. In the second quarter, McCaw found the end zone three times. He rushed for scores of 20, 45 and 46 yards in the second quarter alone. The Hornets went for two on all three occasions, with just one success. As a result, Mendon took a 20-8 lead into the locker room.
Martin began a slow climb back in the third quarter. They got a Karter Ribble touchdown run of 9 yards, and a two-point conversion toss to Drake Buell. This narrowed the deficit to four points.
In the opening minute of the fourth quarter, Martin took the lead. JR Hildebrand tossed his second touchdown of the game, pairing up with Sam Jager on a 27-yard score. A failed conversion left Martin ahead, but by only two points.
Mendon would recapture the lead on their ensuing drive, as they took six minutes off the clock. At the end of the march, Evan Lukeman rumbled into the end zone from a yard out. With 5:17 to play, the Hornets held a 28-22 advantage.
The Clippers would put together a big drive that resulted in the game-winning touchdown. After some big conversions, they struck for a big touchdown play. Hildebrand and Sam Jager were once again the culprits. This time, the 35-yard passing play evened the count at 28. Coach Brad Blauvelt sent his offense on the field for the conversion attempt. JR Hildebrand, the go-to weapon on this Martin team last fall, got his number called again. He kept the football and made it into the end zone to push Martin ahead 30-28. Mendon had a chance in the final few moments, but they were unable to capitalize. Chris Tuinstra recovered a fumble inside the Martin 20-yard line to seal the victory for the Clippers.
Mendon outgained Martin in defeat, 367-308. The Hornets won the ground battle (288-196), but lost through the air (112-79). Jack McCaw was phenomenal in this game, turning 24 carries into 222 yards and three touchdowns. Evan Lukeman added 64 yards on the ground for Mendon.
JR Hildebrand completed 5/11 passes for Martin, racking up 112 yards and three scores. He also had a team high thirteen carries for 93 yards.
“It was a total team effort,” Brad Blauvelt shared. “We had guys going in and out all night. This was a great test for us, we don’t play from behind very often. Hats off to Mendon, they played one heck of a football game. We have nothing but respect for their players and coaches”.
Next week, Martin will take on Gobles in another SWMFL-I battle. Mendon will step out of conference play for a crossover showdown with Wyoming Lee.