**ARTICLE BY JOSH LONGSTRETH**
The perfect season of the Flying G’s of Gladwin continued last week against Pinconning. Gladwin struck early and often en route to a 48-0 win over the Spartans. This week, they would be faced with quite possibly their toughest test of the 2022 season. Standing in their way in week 7 would be the Fighting Irish of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. A perennial power in their own right, the Irish have made the playoffs the last three seasons and eleven of the last sixteen years. It’s a program that is known around the state of Michigan. Their lone loss stands to a Clinton team who is undefeated, and they took them to the wire. Making an over 2-hour trek to Pontiac, beating opponents handily, how would Gladwin respond in a game that could be a potential dog fight? They sure responded like a “top dog” on Friday night.
No hints of worn out legs early in this one for Gladwin. They would do what they do and jump on top first after a 66-yard TD pass. This would give the visiting G’s an early 6-0 lead. Notre Dame Prep would come right back on a 58-yard pass of their own. On the first points that have been scored on the stingy Gladwin defense all year, we would stand at 6-all after one.
Gladwin would get down for the first time all year in the 2nd quarter. Jacob Tuttle would put the Irish on the board again, this time on a 22-yard TD pass. It would give the home team a 13-6 lead. Gladwin would respond in a big way. They would tie things up when Logan Kokotovich broke free from 17-yards out. We were in store for a barn burner in this one. Gladwin would take the lead right back when Earl Esiline would scamper in from 7-yards out. Take a breath, as it would be Gladwin heading into the half with a 19-13 lead.
The Flying G’s would come out firing first in the 3rd. QB Nick Wheeler would hook up with Lucas Mead on a 38-yard TD pass. Gladwin would have a 25-13 advantage. The Irish would draw closer shortly after. A Tuttle 25-yard TD pass would put the heat on Gladwin again. It would be 25-20, Gladwin, after three quarters of play.
Gladwin would give themselves a little more breathing room early in the 4th. Wheeler would find Mead again, as this time the pair would connect on a 62-yard TD pass. A successful 2-point try would give Gladwin a 33-20 lead. The Irish wouldn’t go away. They would put together a drive ending in a 1-yard TD run cutting into the Gladwin lead, 33-27. Buckle, up. The Irish would put together a drive late finding their way in the redzone with a chance to steal one. It would be for night as the Gladwin defense comes up with a “championship” level defensive stand. Gladwin goes into Pontiac and takes down the Irish in all expected thriller, 33-27.
If you weren’t paying attention to Gladwin, you should be by now. They’ve battled playoff teams throughout the year in and handled them in dominant fashion. This week, might be the best of the season and head coach Marc Jarstfer couldn’t be prouder of his team, “This is a great win for our program. To go on the road into a big time environment, face all sorts of adversity (5 turnovers), and still be able to close the game out late with a defensive stand inside the red zone. It says a lot about our heart and resolve”.
Gladwin was piled up nearly 500 yards of total offense in this one while holding the Irish to 295 yards. A balanced attack was led by Nick Wheeler through the air. The Senior QB went 9/15 for 175 yards, and 2 TD’s in this one. He would add another 56 on the ground and had two big INT’s on the night. Earl Esiline ran 11 times for 94 yards, and 1 TD pacing the Gladwin ground attack. Logan Kokotovich ran for 71 yards and add a TD. He led the defense on the night with 11 tackles. Lucas Mead had 4 receptions for 110 yards and 2 TD’s. He provided 4 tackles on the defensive side. Kaden McDonald added 4 catches for 58 yards on the night. He helped on the defensive side with 6 tackles. The Gladwin defense forced 3 INT’s against a solid QB in Tuttle.
If we know anything to this point, they’ll enjoy their win. Maybe even a little longer while tjey make the long trip back to Gladwin. But they will turn face quickly to focus on week 8. It’s a team that appears to be on a mission and they’ll be one to watch coming down the stretch and into the playoffs. Gladwin remains undefeated on the year at 7-0, and 5-0 in conference play. They now face a Beaverton squad who is coming off their best performance of the year in a 35-0 win over Harrison. The Beavers moved to 2-5 overall and 2-3 in JPC play. Gladwin will take a little shorter trip next week when they head into Beaverton with a 7:00 start time next Friday. Notre Dame Prep will drop to 5-2 on the year. They’ll have another battle on their hands next week when they face Dearborn Divine Child. Divine Child sits at 5-2 on the season. The Irish will travel to Dearborn to try and take one from the Falcons in a 7:00 tilt next Friday.