Jack Pine Champions, its been a long time, but with their 48-42 win over Clare last Friday the Flying G’s clinched at least a tie for their first championship since 2002 which was there first year in the conference. A win over Beaverton on Friday will give them their first outright championship. The 2002 title was shared with Clare and Meridian.
When Marc Jarstfer and his staff took over prior to the 2019 season a Gladwin football championship seemed far-fetched, now it’s a reality and the Flying G’s seem primed for even bigger things. Win out, and the Flying G’s will earn a high seed in the playoffs and possibly a pair of home games. The frustration of the first year has given way to a quiet confidence that evolved out of a culture shift and hard work. Jarstfer mentions over and over how selfless his players are and how hard they work year round. Last Friday night was part of the reward.
The Flying G’s jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead on their first two possessions of the game. Earl Esiline caught a short pass in the flats from Nick Wheeler and took it nine yards for the touchdown. Logan Kokotovich scored on a three yard run the next time Gladwin had the ball and Anna Seebeck made both extra points. Clare scored late in the quarter to make it 14-7 after one.
The teams traded touchdowns less than a minute into the second quarter. Kaden McDonald took a pass from running back Aaron Kozlow 54 yards to the Clare 22 yard line. After a 10 yard run by Esiline and a five yard gain by Wheeler, Kokotovich scored again from the six yard line to make it 21-7. Clare got a bit of luck on their next possession when Al Warner scooped up a fumble and raced 61 yards for the touchdown. Kokotovich scored again from the five late in the quarter to make it 28-14 at halftime.
After trading touchdowns in the third quarter, Kokotovich scored on a five-yard run, Gladwin held a 35-21 lead going into the fourth. When Kokotovich scored his fifth touchdown of the night, on a 24 yard run and Wheeler went 35 yards for a touchdown Gladwin held a seemly comfortable 48-28 lead, but the Pioneers had other ideas.
Beau Weldon ran 65 yards for a touchdown on the next possession to make it 48-35. A successful onside kick gave Clare the ball back with four minutes to go. They scored in less than two minutes to close the gap 48-42. When the ensuing onside attempt went out of bounds the Flying G’s were able run out the clock for the win.
Kokotovich rushed for 183 yards to go along with his five touchdowns. Wheeler ran for 178 yards and a touchdown. He also completed seven of his eight passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Braden Ritchie also had a big night rushing eight times for 58 yards late in the third and early in the fourth quarters. McDonald had one catch for 54 yards; Esiline had three for 29 yards and a touchdown, Lucas Mead caught two balls for 27 yards.
The Gladwin offensive line did a great job opening holes and protecting Wheeler all night. Linemen Lincoln McKinnon, Andrew Gary, Hunter Huguelet, Gage Cingano and Logan Klein along with tight end Isaac Hale dominated the line of scrimmage making the win possible.
McDonald led the defense with eight tackles; Hunter Huguelet had 7.5 and Wheeler five. Kokotovich, Esiline, Logan Simrau and Dominic Coats each had a tackle for a loss.
“The atmosphere was incredible Friday night,” said Coach Marc Jarstfer. “There were so many people and such a cool environment for our kids to play in. Clare has a lot of athletes and they are well coached.”
Looking ahead the 7-0 Flying G’s still have a lot to play for. They are currently ranked 7th in Division 5 by the Detroit Free Press. Friday night is Homecoming and the annual Battle for Butch with Beaverton. A win this week and next against a good Standish-Sterling team would give Gladwin its first undefeated regular season since 1979. While the future is bright the present looks pretty good too.