Brayden Eckman (left) receives a boost from Gabe Meyers after Eckman’s TD catch. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)

Second-half struggles cost Martin in regional loss to Colon

By: 
Jason Wesseldyk

Martin football coach Brad Blauvelt gambled early in his team’s Division 1, 8-player regional final against Colon on Saturday, Nov. 9. And Lady Luck appeared to be on his side.
Trailing 7-0 in the closing minutes of the first quarter and facing a fourth-and-four situation from the Clippers’ 49-yard line, Blauvelt elected to go for it. Although the pass from Martin quarterback Travis Thorne was deflected, it hung in the air long enough for Cayden Curry to snatch it out of the air and pick up nine yards for the first down.
Five players later, Thorne hooked up with Brayden Eckman for a 13-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 7-6.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, that kind of luck didn’t last as Colon used a 36-0 advantage in the second half to break open what had been a close game at halftime and hand Martin the 56-12.
The Clippers, who were playing 8-player for the first time, finished the season at 10-1. That included the first unbeaten regular season in school history.
“We had a lot of fun this year,” Blauvelt said. “I’ll remember this group as the team that entered a season full of unknowns and made the most of it. Having our first-ever undefeated regular season in school history will obviously stick with this group of kids forever. That’s pretty awesome.”
And while he was obviously hoping for the season to continue, Blauvelt had a much bigger goal in mind for this team.
“I hope they’ve become better men because of their experience this year,” he said. “Football is a lot like life and we try to relate the two as much as possible throughout the year. As a coaching staff, our goal is to help influence them to be good husbands and fathers and members of a community.”
Martin trailed 13-6 when, with 2:50 left to play in the first half, Curry completed a seven-play, 47-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone. That cut the Clippers’ deficit to 13-12 and seemingly gave them some momentum heading to halftime.
But Colon had other ideas. Marching 58 yards in two minutes, 19 seconds, the Magi got the ball to the end zone on a 4-yard run by Brandon Crawford. Crawford fumbled the ball, but it was recovered in the end zone by teammate Mason Paliga for the touchdown.
“That was big,” Blauvelt said of Colon’s TD to go up 20-12. “We’ve had some big stops this year as the first half was winding down. In those cases, we used that momentum to propel us through the second half.
“So, letting them score was a little bit of uncharted territory for us. With all that being said, we still felt like we were in a great position because we were getting the ball in the second half.”
The Clippers did indeed get the ball to start the second half, but they didn’t maintain possession as long as they would have liked as Colon came up with an interception. That led to a 32-yard touchdown run by Phillip Ava and started what turned out to be a 22-point quarter for the Magi.
“They made some key adjustments at halftime,” Blauvelt said of the Colon defense. “In the first half we scored on a pass play in our trips formation with Brayden wide open on a slant across the middle.
“In the second half when we went to our trips look, they took their backside linebacker and ran him to the trips side on the snap. He ended up running himself right into an interception. That was a big turning point.”
Colon tacked on two insurance TDs in the fourth quarter.
“(Colon was) the best team we played, hands down,” Blauvelt said. “They had a good football player at every position and then they had more on the sideline that could come in a contribute at the same level. I’m rooting for them to win it all.”
Thorne led Martin in rushing with 63 yards in addition to going 4-of-11 passing for 48 yards. Eckman had two catches for 19 yards, with Gabe Meyers (20 yards) and Curry (nine yards) each catching one pass.
Thorne and Eckman paced the Clippers defensively with 10 and nine tackles, respectively.
 

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