Two turnovers turn the tide against Clippers in semis

It certainly was not déjà vu all over again Friday night when Martin lost 36-14 at Lenawee Christian in the state eight-man football semifinals.

The Clippers a year ago made the long trip to Adrian and came home bruised and battered in a 47-12 defeat the hands of the eventual state champions. Martin this time actually had the host Cougars back on their heels until the very last play of the first half.

The visitors dared to take a 14-6 lead with just seconds left until intermission, but an unfortunate shotgun snap sailed over the head of quarterback J.R. Hildebrand and Lenawee’s Sam Kaurenen covered it in the end zone. Nick Stuart then ran in the two-point conversion to knot the halftime count at 14-all.

That turnover and another in the third period turned around the contest.

The Clippers took the second half kickoff and with Sam Jager catching a couple of long passes marched to the red zone before Stuart came up with an interception near his own goal line. The drive to answer had failed.

Even after the Cougars’ quarterback Ashur Bryja scored another TD and hit Elliott Addleman with a PAT pass to take a 22-14 lead, Hildebrand led Martin down the field again, ending with a first-and-goal from seven yards out. But the Clippers turned the ball over on downs after three incomplete passes in the end zone.

Bryja wasted no time in adding to the home team’s lead by breaking loose for an 89-yard TD run and Jacob McKelvey booted the extra point to make it 29-14.

The showdown looked a lot like a defensive struggle in the early going. Martin drew first blood late in the opening quarter when Hildebrand raced 67 yards to pay dirt.

The Adrian ballclub tied it at 6-6 midway through the second period when Sam Lutz, filling in for injured starting halfback Clay Ayers, found the end zone from 14 yards out.

Later in the second quarter Hildebrand tossed a 60-yard scoring strike over the middle to Jager and Charley Martin caught a pass for the additional two points.

But that was just before the tide began to turn the wrong way.

After Lenawee took a 15-point lead late in the third period, the Clippers were forced to get more daring on offense and they were intercepted by Ayers, who came in to play defensive safety after his injury.

Bryja capped the evening’s scoring late in the final quarter with another TD run and McKelvey booted another PAT.

Lenawee will make its second straight appearance in the state finals next Saturday morning at the Superior Dome in Marquette against Suttons Bay, which defeated Rudyard 42-36 in the other semifinal Saturday. The Cougars have not lost over the past two seasons.

Martin, meanwhile, ends its season with an 11-1 record and the consolation that it has lost to the eventual state champion deep in the playoffs for the last three years in a row.

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