FOOTBALL: Clarkston avenges Adams to reach Final Four
BY DAN STICKRADT
CLARKSTON — Perhaps it was poetic justice that Clarkston faced Rochester Adams in Saturday’s Division 1 regional finals.
The Highlanders were the only team to beat Clarkston this season, that coming in the opener, 12-7 — a game that was played over two days in August due to severe weather that rolled through the Detroit area.
Clarkston, which has played Adams in 20 of the past 21 seasons and opened the season in the top five in the preseason rankings, used that loss as revenge fuel and has now won 11 straight games, including a resounding 56-28 victory over visiting Adams for the regional championship.
“Our goal wasn’t just to get here, the kids want to keep playing and see how far they can go,” noted Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson, whose team captured its fourth regional crown in 14 seasons.
Clarkston now advances to the Final Four for the fourth time overall and the first time since 2009 when current quarterback DJ Zezula was in seventh grade. The Wolves will face Flint Carman-Ainsworth in the state semifinals next Saturday at Lake Orion.
“We want to make history at Clarkston,” said Zezula, who finished the afternoon 9-for-10 passing for 230 yards and three touchdown passes. “We already made history by us winning the OAA Red (Division) three years in a row. Now we want to make history by going father than any team in school history.”
Clarkston (11-1) wasted little time in setting the tone against Adams, grabbing a 20-0 lead before the contest was even six minutes old. The Wolves collected 230 passing yards, 119 rushing yards, caused three turnovers that led to points and turned the ball over just once — and that was in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.
Clarkston’s opening drive ended with Ian Eriksen bursting home from one yard out, ending a quick eight-play, 81-yard drive with 9:04 still left in the opening quarter.
Adams (8-4) fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Wolves the ball back on the Adams 19. Three plays later, it was Eriksen again plowing through the line for a 2-yard TD run with 8:09 left in the first.
The Highlanders fumbled the ball again on their next possession, giving the Clarkston the ball on its own 30. The next play, Zezula found a streaking Tim Cason for a 70-yard touchdown pass, although the extra point was blocked with the Wolves up 20-0 and 6:12 still to go in the opening frame.
“DJ was really good again and I though our offensive line did a great job.DJ had all day to pass and we were able to move the football,” said Richardson. “We had then down big early (in the game). Credit Adams because they kept and scratching and playing hard until the end.”
Giving up 56 points, three turnovers that led to Clarkston scores and 349 yards of total offense was too much for Adams to overcome.
“The last time we played them we didn’t make mistakes and we didn’t have many penalties,” sighed Adams coach Tony Patritto. “This was essentially the same two teams — minus a couple of players — that played back in August. We just made a lot of mistakes, too many turnovers. Clarkston has too many (weapons) to do that against. We were in a big hole from the get-go.”
Although Adams did score to make it 20-7 when freshman quarterback Kyle Wood scored on a 1-yard run with 1:09 left in the first quarter, Clarkston continued to pile it on after that point.
The Wolves led 35-14 at the half and 56-21 through three quarters of play, setting off the running clock in the third quarter and rotating in its bench freely in the second half.
Eriksen scored on an 11-yard sprint and a two-point conversion play gave Clarkston a 28-7 lead in the second quarter, while Adams countered with Jordan Shive hauling in a 34-yard dart from Wood to cut the deficit to 28-14 with 4:53 left in the half.
Clarkston scored one final time in the first half, with Zezula finding Austin Egler for a 6-yard scoring toss just 33 ticks before the half.
The Wolves opened the third quarter with another score, this time with Caine Watlington scooping up the loose ball in the end zone only 10 seconds into the frame, good for a commanding 42-14 advantage.
With great field possession with the ball on the Adams 45, Clarkston scored on its next series, a quick three-play drive that ended with Cason catching a 24-yard pass from Zezula.
Reid Kaminski picked off Wood three plays later and returned the interception 27 yards for another score, giving Clarkston the 56-21 advantage.
Clarence Broadnax scored on a 21-yard run and Parker Monahan added a 15-yard run for the other Adams score to cap the scoring. Spencer Ward had four extra points for the Highlanders.
Broadnax finished with 14 carries for 114 yards for Adams.
Eriksen added 90 rushing yards on 14 attempts, Cason caught four passes for 120 yards and Egler had three catches for 77 yards for Clarkston.
Clarkston has come up short of the state finals three times before, losing in the state semifinals in 1999, 2000 and 2009 — all in close affairs.
“We’ll just have to step it up a notch and prepare the best we can for our next game,” said senior lineman Nick Mattich, a 6-3, 290-pound standout who has committed Western Michigan. “We’ll do whatever we can to try to get to (the state finals). We know Clarkston has come close before.”
(Dan Stickradt is Senior Editor for Digital Daily www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine, as well as a freelance writer for multiple media outlets, including State Champs! High School Sports Show website. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)