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Clarkston’s Zezula, Saline’s Jackson stole the show in Saturday’s Division 1 state title game

By: Jeff Dullack, November 29, 2014, 7:42 pm

Detroit – While Saturday’s game between Clarkston and Saline was a battle of the two best teams in Division 1, it also featured two of the top quarterbacks in the state.

Clarkston’s D.J. Zezula, a Mr. Football candidate this year and Saline’s Josh Jackson, who very well could be in the Mr. Football mix next fall went head to head on Saturday afternoon as Clarkston came out with its second straight Division 1 title.

At the end of the game, there was one thing that just about anyone who watched the game could be in agreement with and both coaches said simply that both signal callers were as good as advertised on Saturday.

“I thought they were both outstanding,” said Clarkston head coach Kurt Richardson. “A large part of our game plan was to stop his (Jackson’s) running and he’s everything as advertised. D.J. got the job done when he had to get the job done, he struggled a little bit on some passes early, but it didn’t faze him and he got it done with his legs.”

Saline coach Joe Palka felt both quarterbacks put on quite the show during the game.

“I thought both kids were as advertised,” he said. “That’s really what you want in a state championship game. Their kid (Zezula) obviously made designed plays with his feet and the one long touchdown pass was right on the money. He made plays and was as advertised throughout the day. I thought that Josh never quit and when everyone knew we had to throw the ball, he did it successfully and Josh made a lot of plays with his feet to extend plays and drives, so I thought it was a great game to watch from a quarterback standpoint.” 

Zezula finished the afternoon with 129 yards rushing and a touchdown, and also threw for 100 yards and another score.

Perhaps the biggest plays for Clarkston on the day, Zezula showed off his arm and his legs as he threw for a 52 yard touchdown pass to Merrick Canada, which gave the Wolves their first lead of the game, 13-10, and then early in the fourth quarter, Zezula took off for a 70 yard touchdown run that gave the Wolves their largest lead of the game, 27-10.

Jackson threw for 237 yards and rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown to help pace the Saline offense.

Jackson also showed he can make plays with both his arm and his legs throughout the afternoon on Saturday, coming up with long throws to put the Hornets inside the red zone and also punched in a one yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 27-17.

Jackson said that he while Zezula is a great quarterback for his team to play against, he tried not to look at what he was able to do for Clarkston, but simply stayed focus on what he could do for his offense.

“I didn’t really treat it as competition,” he said. “He’s another great quarterback and that’s about it. You can’t look at it like you’re competing against an offensive player. You just have to do what you do and try to convert and run your offense.”

Zezula agreed with what Jackson had to say that he doesn’t focus on what the opposing quarterback had to say and added that he expects his opposing counterpart from Saturday to continue to do big things in the future.

“You can’t get too caught up in comparing yourself to other people and other stats,” he said. “The offenses are different, you can do that until the days end. He’s a great athlete and he’s going to go somewhere big, his stats probably blow mine out of the water, but it’s all about the team and I’m just happy that we won.”

Zezula now leaves Clarkston with a second straight football state title, the only two football state championships in school history for Clarkston.

The senior signal caller said that after winning those two state titles, what he has taken a pride in is being big part of starting the tradition at Clarkston and setting the standard for future teams at Clarkston.

“It hits home when the little kids and the little seventh graders at the youth camp wear my jerseys and wear my No. 5,” he said. “That’s where it really hits home, just to pave the way for the younger kids and start a legacy and start a tradition here that winning is what’s going to happen here at Clarkston.”

On Saline’s side, Jackson comes back for his senior season next year as he hopes to lead the Hornets to their first state title in school history, much like what Zezula has been able to do for Clarkston.

Jackson noted that he and his teammates definitely enjoyed the run that the Hornets made to get to Saturday’s game, being the first Saline team to reach the football state finals, but added that they will be motivated to make another run and try to win a title next fall

“It’s just amazing to think that this is the best team ever in Saline and to play on this stage is an amazing opportunity,” he said. “For next year, it will give us the fire to try to come back here and win.”