Team of the Month: Martin Football

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 13, 2022

Two straight trips to 8-Player Semifinals

Two seasons over the last three with double-digit wins.

Three straight seasons where the only loss on the field came in the playoffs to the eventual Division 1 champion.

Martin’s football team had come so close a few times to earning the ultimate prize in Michigan high school football. And finally, this fall, it was the Clippers’ turn.

Paced by 11 seniors, the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for November claimed the 8-Player Division 1 championship at the Superior Dome in Marquette – the Clippers’ first Finals title since 1987 – with a 74-24 win over previously-undefeated Merrill.

“This is the most seniors we’ve ever had, as long as I’ve been coaching here,” said Martin coach Brad Blauvelt, a 2003 graduate of the school who just finished his fifth season leading the program after serving as an assistant coach nearly as long before taking over. “Program kids – from rocket football to middle school, all the way up, they’ve been committed to the program the whole time.”

Martin has an interesting recent history as a program, to say the least. After five straight winning seasons from 2003-07, the Clippers didn’t win a game from 2008-2013. They got back on the plus side at 6-4 in 2018, then made the move to 8-player – where they’ve gone a combined 40-6 over the last four seasons. 

This one started with a 30-28 win over Mendon – the eventual 8-Player Division 2 runner-up – and over 13 games Martin averaged 54 points while giving up only 14.5. There were a pair of losses along the way – to Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian and Bridgman, which both finished 9-0 but have enrollments too high to qualify for the 8-Player Playoffs. Those losses helped Martin move forward, especially the 35-34 defeat against Bridgman in the regular-season finale. 

“The biggest thing was being OK with a loss, because we were so used to winning … not being OK with it, just understanding we’ll get better from it,” Blauvelt said. 

The Bees were able to get their playmakers outside on the Clippers – which generally means big plays in the 8-player format. So Martin’s coaches made a sharp adjustment heading into the postseason, putting all-state safety Sam Jager at one outside linebacker, and moving middle linebacker (and all-state quarterback) JR Hildebrand outside on the other side.

So while Hildebrand was able to continue leading the offense to totals of 68, 56, 42 and 74 points over the four playoff games, the Clippers during the playoffs gave up just 52 points total – and held a two-time reigning champion Adrian Lenawee Christian team averaging 48 points per game to just 14 in a 59-14 Regional Final win. 

The Cougars had eliminated Martin from the playoffs the last two Semifinals on the way to those two straight Division 1 championships. In 2019, Martin lost to Colon in a Regional Final, and the Magi went on to claim the Division 1 title.

“The last couple of years, we lost the last game of the season, and you can’t do anything about it,” Blauvelt said. “Losing in-season, we were able to fix and change some things around that I think ultimately helped us.”

Hildebrand was one of the state’s best at his position this fall, rushing for 1,340 yards and 23 touchdowns and throwing for 1,234 yards and 25 scores. He owns two school records on offense, and also led the team with 90 tackles, to go with four sacks and seven more tackles for loss. 

Jager caught seven of those touchdown passes and was the best blocker for a team that ran for more than 2,600 yards. He had 51 tackles and five interceptions, including one he brought back for a score. Another senior, Karter Ribble, topped 300 yards rushing and receiving, with a combined 12 touchdowns, plus scored twice on kickoffs and again on a punt return. He also made 90 percent of his extra-point tries and set a school record with a 43-yard field goal.

They were part of that senior class that, although graduating, has helped bring a buzz and momentum that Blauvelt hopes carries over into other sports, academics and the community as a whole.

“They come to morning workouts, they come to all the summer stuff, and they do the extra work to push themselves over the hump,” Blauvelt said. “They’re so talented athletically too, that doing that pushed them over the top even more so.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2022-23

October: Gladwin volleyball - Report
Negaunee girls tennis - Report

1st & Goal: 2023 Week 6 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 28, 2023

Five showdowns of undefeated teams highlight this week's Michigan high school statewide schedule as we begin our second-half buildup toward the end of the regular season. 

MI Student AidFour shoud heavily impact league championship races, and the fifth merely will tell us how two more of the top 8-player teams in the entire state stack up among the elite.

If you're not watching in person, check out most of the matchups highlighted below, and several others, on Check in as well with the MHSAA Scores page for all of them as they come in. (Games below are Friday unless noted.)

Bay & Thumb

Croswell-Lexington (5-0) at Almont (5-0) - Watch

Just past halfway through the Blue Water Area Conference schedule, half the teams are 3-1 or 4-0 in league play – with these the co-leaders. Croswell-Lexington hasn’t played a game closer than 19 points this fall, but did lose last year’s meeting with Almont 37-26. The Raiders, meanwhile, have won the last two weeks by seven and one point, respectively – but opened the season with three straight shutouts as the stifling defense they’ve become known for has given up only 34 points total.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lapeer (4-1) at Grand Blanc (3-2) - Watch, Linden (4-1) at Fenton (4-1) - Watch, Birch Run (4-1) at Freeland (5-0) - Watch, Madison Heights Lamphere (4-1) at Marine City (4-1).

Greater Detroit

Westland John Glenn (5-0) at Belleville (5-0) - Watch

Belleville’s 42-3 victory over Livonia Franklin last week was the team’s 30th straight, and the Tigers now own the state’s longest active winning streak with Powers North Central’s coming to an end at 41 on the same night. Belleville’s next challenger is John Glenn, which under second-year coach Jason Mensing has as many victories this fall as the last two combined and has nearly guaranteed its first winning season since 2014. Mensing guided his former team Ottawa Lake Whiteford through several memorable moments, and this will be the Rockets’ biggest so far under his leadership.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gibraltar Carlson (4-1) at Trenton (4-1) - Watch, Romeo (3-2) at Macomb Dakota (4-1) - Watch, Lake Orion (5-0) at Rochester Adams (3-2) - Watch, Marine City Cardinal Mooney (3-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (3-2) - Watch.


Goodrich (5-0) at Corunna (5-0) - Watch

The winner of this matchup clinches a share of the Flint Metro League Stars championship, similar to last season when Goodrich won the league and Corunna was second thanks to the Martians’ 42-7 win in their Week 5 matchup. Both arguably have been even better this fall. Goodrich has handed the only losses this season to Frankenmuth and Linden, and Corunna has given up only 31 points this season and no more than 17 in a game while scoring at least 38 every time out.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Evart (4-1) at Beal City (5-0) - Watch, Grand Ledge (5-0) at DeWitt (2-2) - Watch, Fowler (5-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-1) - Watch, Montrose (4-1) at New Lothrop (4-1) - Watch.

Northern Lower Peninsula

Charlevoix (4-1) at Elk Rapids (2-3)

There’s more riding here than the initial glance my indicate. Charlevoix, with a win, would clinch a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title – its first since 2020 and after finishing second to Boyne City both of the past two seasons. The Rayders haven’t had a game closer than 13 points since falling to Traverse City St. Francis by one in their season opener. Elk Rapids got off to a tough start but has won two straight – both in shutouts – and is looking for its first win over Charlevoix since 2018.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grayling (3-2) at Kingsley (4-1) - Watch, McBain (4-1) at Lake City (3-2), Ludington (3-2) at Manistee (4-1) - Watch, Cadillac (3-2) at Petoskey (3-2) - Watch.

Southeast & Border

Jackson (4-1) at Adrian (4-1) - Watch

Jackson has a chance to set up a Week 7 winner-take-all matchup with Chelsea for the Southeastern Conference White championship – a nice jump after finishing third last season. The Vikings haven’t defeated Chelsea since 2018 but lost by a respectable 17-0 last fall. But they can’t overlook Adrian, still enjoying its best season since 2016 despite falling to Chelsea 28-18 last week. The Maples would love to hand Jackson a loss tonight and cheer for the Vikings next week with a title share possible.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Michigan Center (4-1) at Grass Lake (4-1) - Watch, Flat Rock (4-1) at Milan (3-2) - Watch, Ann Arbor Huron (3-2) at Saline (5-0) - Watch, Hudson (5-0) at Blissfield (3-2) - Watch.

Southwest Corridor

Parma Western (5-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-1)

We’re halfway through the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference schedule, and this has emerged as an important matchup with Parma Western tied with Hastings for first and Harper Creek only a game back after falling to the Saxons 34-6 last week. The Beavers struggled to 3-6 a year ago but already have avenged 2022 losses to Battle Creek Lakeview, Battle Creek Central and Marshall – and Western defeated them 34-0 last season before Harper Creek went 2-1 to finish the fall. Western’s defense is a notable strength again, giving up only 37 points total this season despite taking on Dearborn Divine Child and Detroit Country Day over the first two weeks.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Paw Paw (5-0) at Edwardsburg (3-2) - Watch, Constantine (4-1) at Allegan (4-1) - Watch, St. Joseph (3-2) at Portage Northern (5-0) - Watch, Muskegon Catholic Central (3-2) at Schoolcraft (4-1) - Watch.

Upper Peninsula

Gladstone (4-1) at Menominee (5-0)

This is the first of three games that will tell a lot about Menominee’s season as the Maroons enter this stretch alone atop the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper at 4-0 but with Gladstone, Week 7 opponent Negaunee and Week 8 opponent Kingsford all 3-1 in league play. While this is a new conference for the Maroons this season, they have plenty of history with Gladstone as both came from the Great Northern Conference – and Menominee had won three straight in the series before Gladstone’s 28-6 victory last fall. Gladstone’s lone defeat this year came Week 3 to Kingsford, 35-12.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-2) - Watch, Manistique (3-2) at Iron Mountain (5-0) - Watch, Marquette (2-2) at Escanaba (1-4) - Watch, Houghton (2-3) at Calumet (1-4) - Watch.

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at East Grand Rapids (5-0)

We’ve been watching East Grand Rapids’ rejuvenation this fall with this among games circled for special attention, and Forest Hills Central’s 15-14 loss to Byron Center last week hardly lessens the intrigue. The Rangers are still among favorites statewide in Division 3, ranked No. 2, and East Grand Rapids is right behind them this week at No. 3 (while Byron Center is No. 2 in Division 2). The Ottawa-Kent Conference White title won’t be decided with this matchup, but it surely will be impacted – and the Rangers have defeated EGR all three times they’ve met since the Pioneers rejoined the division in 2020.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Allendale (5-0) at Spring Lake (4-1), Lowell (4-1) at Byron Center (5-0), Caledonia (4-1) at Hudsonville (4-1) - Watch, Zeeland East (4-1) at Muskegon (3-2).


Mendon (5-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-0) - Watch

Movement on the overall 8-player enrollment list have made this a matchup we’ll see just this once this fall, as Mendon – last year’s Division 2 runner-up – has moved to Division 1 and is ranked No. 2, while Lenawee Christian is top-ranked in Division 2 after winning Division 1 titles in 2020 and 2021 and reaching a Regional Final last year. Still, many 8-player eyes will be watching. The Cougars have given up just 32 points this season and no more than 12 in a game, and that defense should be part of the key matchup within the matchup because Mendon is scoring 52 per contest and coming off an 80-point performance.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Carson City-Crystal (5-0) at Coleman (4-1) - Watch, Brown City (5-0) at Mayville (5-0) - Watch, St. Ignace (5-0) at Newberry (4-1), Norway (4-1) at Ontonagon (4-1) - Watch.

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PHOTO Muskegon Catholic Central and Orchard View players reach to get a hand on the ball during their meeting this season. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)