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Clarkston’s rushing attack leads the way to season opening win over Lapeer

By: Ben Szilagy, August 26, 2016, 10:51 pm

Ann Arbor — Running plays and Clarkston football are synonymous during the high school football season, and that tradition was on full display Friday night at Michigan Stadium.

The Wolves totaled 397 rushing yards in its  28-7 victory over Lapeer in the inaugural “Battle At The Big House.”

“I don’t know how or when that tradition started; I’ll be honest,” Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson said. “I’m an old school guy. It’s something we’ve always believed in. If you can control the trenches you can control the game, and good things will happen.”

Junior running backs Josh Cantu and Michael Fluegel are now the faces of Clarkston’s running game, and both running backs helped make those good things happen for the Wolves (1-0) right off the bat.

Lapeer muffed the opening kickoff giving Clarkston the ball on the Lightning 26 yard line. Two plays later, Fluegel carried the ball 14 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead 28 seconds into the game.

“It was huge that fast, and punch them in the mouth was a nice jumpstart because it hurts the other teams’ motivation. And, it’s hard to bounce back after that,” Fluegel said.

That momentum stayed on Clarkston’s side as Lapeer missed a 28-yard field goal on the ensuing drive. Clarkston senior quarterback capped off a 12 play drive with a 15-yard touchdown that extended the lead, 14-0.

Clarkston’s defense would then take over the game. The Wolves continued to load the box with seven and eight players and dictated what Lapeer would do. Lapeer senior Drew Rubick (4-for-12 30 yards 1 TD) completed a 6-yard fade to fellow senior Hunter Bailey for the Lightning’s lone score.

Clarkston’s defense allowed only 105 yards of total offense. Rubick accounted for 66 of those yards.

“They played really well. We did a lot of different things, and showed some different blitzes. They set the pace for us,” Richardson said.

The Wolves’ offense was just as relentless with a balanced attack of Fluegel (19 carries, 86 yards 1 TD), King (15 carries 96 yards 2 TD), and Cantu (20 carries 171 yards 1 TD).

With the weeks leading up to the game, Richardson really didn’t have an idea that Cantu would have this much of an impact this early.

“Josh Cantu ran really, really well tonight. He’s been a pleasant surprise. We saw it at the blue/ pink game. We looked at how he ran and thought ‘this kid is pretty good’. He showed us more at the scrimmage, and we knew we couldn’t keep him off the field,” he said.

It was easy to see why late in the fourth quarter when he capped off a 5-play drive after a defensive interception by Maxx Brennan. Cantu had runs of 25, 15-yards before capping the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run for a 28-7 lead.

King scored his second touchdown in the midway through the third quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run.

Clarkston opens up OAA-Red play next week against Southfield. Even though he liked what he saw in week one, Richardson said this team still needs to take baby steps towards the playoffs.

“We have a whole new challenge next week., and we’re going to have to throw the ball more,” he said. “We’ll play at 6 o’clock, and a crowd of maybe 500 people. The kids have to flip their mind set, and they have to forget what happened here.

“We’ll take baby steps. I saw some similarities between this team and the state championship teams, but we have a lot to work on in the meantime.

“It’s about baby steps.”