Rae’Quin Lee steals headlines, as Southfield A&T opens season with win over Clarkston
WEST BLOOMFIELD — If you were looking at the rosters for Friday’s opening game between Clarkston and Southfield A&T, trying to anticipate who might grab the headlines, you might’ve gone in a number of directions.
You could’ve seen the four-star linemen for Clarkston, and figured the Wolves would dominate in the trenches. Or that the Wolves were starting a new, strong-armed quarterback.
On the other side, A&T’s quarterback, the Florida Atlantic-bound Anthony Romphf, has a plethora of Division I-caliber passing options, any of whom could take over a game.
So, naturally, it was a coming out party for a virtual unknown, as junior running back Rae’Quin Lee stole the show in his debut for the Warriors, running for 184 yards and two touchdowns, as A&T won 28-14.
“This was actually his first varsity start. He’s an animal. He was waiting for this moment, so give him a shout-out for that one,” said Romphf, who ran for 119 and a touchdown and threw for 117 and a touchdown. “When he drops his Week 1-4 highlight tape, lots of schools are going to be offering him.”
Lee’s weaving, 64-yard touchdown run in the first quarter came on A&T’s first offensive snap after the Wolves had turned an interception into points, allowing the Warriors to seize the momentum back, and tie the game at 7-7.
The game would go into halftime tied at 14-14, but the Warriors would have the only two scores of the second half, holding Clarkston to 214 total yards on the game.
“They kicked our (butts). They kicked our (butts), up front,” Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson said. “We couldn’t block them, we couldn’t stop them either way.”
It was the first time since 2016 that the Southfield A&T program — now in its fourth season after the combination of Southfield High and Southfield-Lathrup — had beaten Clarkston, and the first time ever the Warriors won their season opener.
For coach Tim Conley, who coached Southfield High before the merger, it had been even longer since his program had opened with a win.
“We haven’t won our first game in seven years, so that’s exciting for us,” the coach said. “A lot of good stuff that I saw out there. Had a lot of penalties — which, you expect to have a lot of penalties in the first game. We just don’t expect to have ALL the penalties in the first game.”
Both teams have plenty to clean up between now and Week 6, when they meet again, the next one counting in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division race.
“We’ll be all right. We’ll get back to the drawing board, and work our (butts) off,” Richardson said.
The Wolves will get some help in the trenches when one of their four-star two-way linemen, junior Garrett Dellinger, returns to play. Both he and Rocco Spindler are coming off labrum tears last season, but Dellinger couldn’t go Friday, and was relegated to charting plays on the sidelines.
With as many weapons as the Warriors have on the outside — Washington State commit Christian Fitzpatrick, Robert Army Jr., Jeff Bowens and Eastern Illinois commit Arron Foulkes, among others — defenses will be spread thin trying to cover the perimeter, opening up the middle for the two-headed running attack of Romphf and Lee.
“We’ve always tried to have a balanced offense, but we do have some special people on the perimeter. Seeing that does bode well for us,” Conley said. “He (Lee) is a real success story for our school A lot of people are mentoring him. His parents are those kind of people that don’t put up with bad grades. They put a lot of pressure on him. He just has responded as a young man, and for him to come out here and play like that was just special for him, and for us.”
After pinning the Warriors deep early, Clarkston turned an interception by Alec Boan into a 1-yard touchdown run by Devin Parkison and a 7-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first quarter. Lee answered with his 64-yard touchdown scamper on A&T’s next offensive snap, tying it at 7-7, then Romphf capped a 15-play, 81-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, making it 14-7 A&T with 1:14 left in the first half.
Justin Buchmann returned the ensuing kickoff into A&T territory, setting up a Hail Mary attempt by the Wolves on fourth-and-6, and first-time starting quarterback Mike DePillo dropped it neatly into the hands of Matt Miller to tie the game at 14-14 at the half.
The second half was all A&T, though.
Romphf ripped off a 44-yard scamper on third down to keep the first drive of the third quarter alive, and Lee ended it with a 32-yard touchdown run to make it 21-14.
Clarkston had three second-half drives end inside the Southfield 30, the first coming after DePillo’s 62-yard quarterback draw set the Wolves up on the doorstep, only to turn the ball over one snap later. Clarkston later turned the ball over on downs at the Southfield 6- and 29-yard lines.
“We got down inside the 5 twice, and didn’t score. You can’t do that, not against a team like that,” Richardson said.
A&T’s final score was set up by a short punt with just over six minutes remaining. Romphf hit Fitzpatrick out of the left slot with a 10-yard touchdown pass, making it 28-14, but it was the running game that was the more effective for the Warriors on the afternoon.
“A run game like that makes the pass game easier. I can’t say nothing else, but thank my O-line — without them, nothing would’ve happened today,” Romphf said. “We know that speed is our advantage over everybody, and our ability to extend plays, so we just went off the strength of our offense.”