Clarkston outlasts West Bloomfield in low-scoring game to claim third Division 1 title in five years
Detroit – Going into Saturday afternoon’s Division 1 final against West Bloomfield and its high scoring offense, Clarkston had one goal in mind with the hopes of slowing down the Lakers and winning its first title since 2014 – shorten the game.
The Wolves did more than slow down the West Bloomfield offense, keeping the Laker offense off of the scoreboard as Clarkston would hold on for a 3-2 win to claim its third state title in the last five years.
Saturday’s game was the second lowest scoring game in MHSAA Finals history. The lowest scoring game in finals history came in 1987, when Ann Arbor Pioneer defeated Detroit Catholic Central 3-0 in the Class A final at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Clarkston head coach Kurt Richardson said that the game plan for his team was to possess the ball and keep the West Bloomfield offense, which scored 37 points in a win over Clarkston earlier this season, off the field.
“Our whole thought process was that we’ve got to shorten the game,” he said. “We had to shorten the game by not giving them so many possessions. We had to eat up some clock running the ball and limit their possessions because they’re so explosive.”
Saturday’s game was the first time two teams from the Oakland Activities Association met in the MHSAA football finals.
West Bloomfield’s only points of the game came on Clarkston’s second drive when an errant snap went over the Clarkston punter’s head and through the back of the end zone to give the Lakers a 2-0 lead with 3:04 left in the first quarter.
The Lakers would look to add to their lead on its first drive of the second quarter as the Lakers drove deep into Clarkston territory, but Clarkston defensive back Zach Scott made a diving interception in the end zone to end the West Bloomfield drive.
West Bloomfield head coach Ron Bellamy said that he felt his team was able to move the ball on Saturday, but untimely penalties and three turnovers hurt his team throughout the game.
“We knew they were going to blitz more, we knew they were going to rotate their coverages,” he said. “We moved the ball well, those guys defensively just grinded, but we had some unfortunate penalties that set us back on some drives and we had two early turnovers that kind of set the tone for us offensively. Credit to coach Richardson and his staff, they did a phenomenal job today of stopping us.”
After the Wolves forced a punt late in the second quarter, the Clarkston offense took over on the West Bloomfield 40-yard line and quickly moved into field goal position as Jermaine Roemer connected for a 30-yard field goal with two seconds left before halftime to give his team a 3-2 lead. The Clarkston drive was aided by a roughing the passer penalty, that moved the ball inside the West Bloomfield 15-yard line.
After neither team found any success throughout the entire second half, West Bloomfield would have one final opportunity for a game-winning drive. But the Wolves had other ideas as Clarkston senior defensive back Tieler Houston stepped in front of a Bryce Veasley pass and returned it to midfield to seal Clarkston’s 3-2 win.
“Coach always talks about keeping the middle and seal it and always having your eyes on a swivel,” he said. “I saw him come out and I just made the play.”
For Clarkston, the Wolves were considered to be an underdog throughout the postseason and after a loss to Rochester Adams in week six of the season, Richardson said that turned out to be a turning point for the Wolves’ season
“We always talk to the kids about turning a negative into a positive,” he said. “After we got beat by Adams, that was a ‘Okay guys, wakeup call and we’ve got to turn things around’ and we started making strides and our running game changed a little bit. A lot of people said that we didn’t have a chance in the second game, we didn’t have a chance in the third game, everybody said we didn’t have a chance tonight, but we just came out and played the game.”