**ARTICLE BY JOSH LONGSTRETH**
The Clare Pioneers have been rolling the last three weeks. In two of those matchups, the offense has scored nearly 50 points in each. As hot as anyone, they would face a team that is just as hot at the right time. Shepherd has won their last four games and come in with a ton of momentum in week 8. By offense, by defense, they have gotten it done on both sides of the ball. Which team would keep that momentum heading into the regular season finale would be a bit of a surprise.
It’s not Halloween yet, but the Bluejays would put Clare through a ‘House of Horrors’ early on in this one. Shepherd would strike first in this as Isaiah Reihl would find a hole in the Pioneer defense and take one in from 28-yards out. It would give the home team a 7-0 lead after a Tate Ross PAT. A nightmare shorty after for the Pioneers, when Shepherd would scoop a fumble and take it back 70-yards to put the Bluejays up 13-0. Shepherd would come out firing in this one as they would put Clare in the ‘danger zone’ on a Kaleb Griffin 5-yard TD run. This would give Shepherd a 20-0 lead after one, leaving the Pioneers reeling.
Shepherd would impose themselves a little more in the 2nd. Reihl would punch another one in from 6-yards out. A failed two-point try would make this a 26-0 game and that’s where we would stand after one half of play.
When you are used to success you don’t go down without a fight. Clare would finally jump on the board in the 3rd. Ritchie Montgomery would scoop a Bluejay fumble and take it all the way to paydirt. An Ethan Cooke PAT would cut the Shepherd lead to 26-7. The Pioneers would turn defense into offense yet again when Westyn Bryant would grab an INT and he would do the rest. The comeback was on, and we had ourselves a ballgame after three quarters of play. Shepherd would lead this one 26-14 heading into the 4th.
That, however, was where the comeback would end. Both defenses would stiffen up in the final quarter and the Bluejays would grab a huge win in week 8, 26-14. The Bluejays jumped on top early and often in this one. The Pioneers would battle but it just wouldn’t be enough. The Clare offense was held to just 180 yards of total offense in this one. Shepherd would grab 337 yards of offense. Turnovers would be vital throughout as the Bluejays were able to take of their opportunities.
The Pioneers will move to 5-3 overall on the year. They are now 4-2 in JPC play. They’ll look to fix their mistakes but will turn face quickly to get ready for a tough week 9 matchup against Gaylord. The Blue Devils sit at 5-3 overall, losing a close week 8 game to Gladstone. After scoring over 30 points in their last two games, Gaylord was held to just 14 this week. Clare will welcome them in in what should be a great matchup to close out the regular season. One of the hottest teams in the JPC, Shepherd has now won 5 in a row. Things will be tough for them again in week 9 when they face Ithaca. Ithaca comes in at 7-1 after a dominant win over Carrollton. They’ll make the short ride over to Shepherd where the Bluejays will await them for a 7:00 tilt next Friday.