20 YEARS OF STATE CHAMPS! 20 STATE CHAMPIONS SERIES: 2014 CLARKSTON WOLVES
Clarkston — When the semifinal jinx was finally broken, Clarkston football had not just one, but two football state titles.
Now, the Wolves have three and any thought of a time where Clarkston struggled to come through in the clutch in deep playoff runs is a faint memory.
The 14-0 2014 Wolves squad repeated as state champions by beating Saline 33-25 in the Division 1 state finals. Senior quarterback D.J. Zezula (Wayne State) captained both the 2013 and 2014 clubs that cemented the Clarkston football program’s greatness and eliminated talks of a postseason curse.
“That group of players on those ’13 and ’14 teams got us over the hump, they took us from an Oakland County power, an OAA power to a state power and football brand,” said Kurt Richardson, the head coach for all three of the Wolves’ state championship teams. D.J. set the tone, established the pace for that group and his teammates gravitated to him. He wasn’t only an elite playmaker, he was an elite leader.”.
Zezula threw for 100 yards and ran for 130 yards and a score in the 2014state championship game. Wolves’ star running back Nolan Eriksen (Eastern Michigan) rushed for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns in the game, including a 22-yard scamper that iced the win in the fourth quarter. Nolan’s older brother Ian, who he played with at EMU, bullied his way to 245 yards and 3 scores in the 2013 state finals, a 32-14 victory over Detroit Catholic Central.
“Those Eriksen boys had a whole other gear, they came equipped with sportscar engines and afterburners,” Richardson joked. “Nolan and Ian ran with such toughness and competitive spirit and that type of mentality is contagious.”
Another big reason for those state titles, especially in 2014 was lineman Cole Chewins (Michigan State), who made the move from defensive end to offensive tackle and solidified the Wolves’ protection unit.
“Cole’s selflessness and raw determination were linchpins for us,” Richardson said. “We put him on the offensive line and he didn’t miss a beat and kept getting better and better.”
David Beedle (Michigan State) and Nick Matich (Western Michigan) were anchors of the Wolves line in 2013. Timmy Cason (Purdue) and Caine Watlington (Air Force) showed out as wide receivers and defensive backs on that team. Shane Holler (Wayne State), Austin Egler (Saginaw Valley State) and Merrick Canada (Hillsdale) did the same for the 2014 club.
Richardson retired following last season after 35 years at the helm of the Clarkston football program. His 2017 team also brought home a state crown. He left the sidelines with a record of 274-98.
Looking back, Richardson realizes how difficult it was for his 2014 squad to get back to the mountain top, considering it had to acclimate to being the hunted as well as the hunter.
“The ’14 team came in with a ton of pressure, they were the big dogs and everybody wanted what they had,” he said. “They responded by running the table, going undefeated and forever setting the bar of excellence for football in the Clarkston community. It was a very special moment in time for all of us that were involved.”