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'Take the moment in': Martin rallies around football team, prepares for first state title game in 35 years

The Clippers play Merrill on Nov. 19 at the Superior Dome in Marquette.

MARTIN, Mich — It doesn't take long after you get to Martin in Allegan County to be reminded of the high school's 1987 state football title. There's a sign proudly displaying the fact right on the way into town.

It's a moment the community still celebrates decades later, and a magical feeling they're hoping to recapture this weekend.

"It was a great team, it was a great run," says Randy Hunt.

While 1987 may seem like ages ago, for Hunt, a running back on the last Clippers title squad, the memories are fresh in his mind.

"I got to score a touchdown," he remembers fondly.

Now, he's experiencing a state championship run from the sidelines, as an assistant coach for the team.

"It's fun to see the alumni and the guys who were on that team get to be part of the fanbase and experience it that way now," says Hunt.

He isn't the only one.

"A lot of my teammates and alumni, you know, they're still around," he says.

Both around, and proud.

Filling the bleachers at Martin's stadium each Friday night in the fall, it's a tradition in a small town like this one. The residents are waiting for this chance to come back.

"It's been 35 years so, like, everybody's waiting every year," says Sam Jager, a senior tight end and outside linebacker on the team.

Jager and the rest of the players know it's on the town's mind, too. Arguably none more so than quarterback JR Hildebrand, who's dad was on the '87 team.

"He said to prepare like its another week and to take the moment in," says Hildebrand.

A moment the players say is only possible because of the people of Martin.

"The community has really helped and they've been behind us the whole time," says Hildebrand.

"If you've never been from a small town, you don't realize the impact that something like this can have," says Hunt.

The impact is visible everywhere you look. Signs are in front yards, displays are in business windows, a powder keg of pride is ready to ignite.

"It's a once in a lifetime thing," says Jager, "Just to fire everybody up again and keep it going."

The Clippers will make the long drive to the U.P. for the eight-man state title game later this week. They'll play Merrill on Nov. 19 at the Superior Dome in Marquette.


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