Rockford puts an end to Clarkston’s undefeated season with a 25-14 win
Football fans across southeast Michigan know very little from year to year about just what kind of game action they are missing in the other pockets of the state. But those in attendance for today’s game in Clarkston got a chance to see first hand just what kind of hardnosed football the boys from the west side play as the Rams from Rockford came into the home of the undefeated Wolves and put a licking on them to the tune of a 25 to 14 victory in this Division 1 regional title tilt.
The game actually started a little slowly with these two very physical teams seemingly feeling each other out. Both squads rely heavily on their rushing attack, especially Clarkston, who has ridden the powerful legs of Junior Ian Eriksen all season long. But there was very little room to be found as both teams got tremendous showings early by their defensive lines.
“They’re defense is very, very good. There defense is the first defense to stuff us all year,” said Clarkston head coach Kurt Richardson of Rockford’s strong defensive unit.
It wasn’t until the second quarter that either team found any room to move, and it was Rockford with the first strike. Senior runningback Connor Darby took it in from six yards out to cap a 13 play, 59 yard drive just a little over four minutes into the second quarter. Darby finished the day with 80 yards on 19 carries, part of a three headed rushing attack for the rams that racked up 232 yards on the day against a normally very stout Clarkston defense.
The Clarkston offense stalled on the ensuing drive, but a great punt pinned the Rams deep in their own territory at the three. But the good feeling would be short lived. On the very next play, Rockford turned a quick slant pass into a 97 yard touchdown scamper with Senior signal caller Kyle Short hooking up with tailback Scott Kaule for the score to put Rockford ahead 13 to nothing.
However, Clarkston would get themselves right back into it just a few minutes later. After a fumble recovery by sophomore Cole Chewins, the Wolves started with the ball on the Rockford 41. And it took them only two plays to hit paydirt, with Sophomore QB D.J. Zezula delivering a beautiful pass to Junior Tim Cason for the score. That would take us to the break with Rockford leading 13 to 7.
The second half would be more of the same. Rockford stuck to their gameplan and on their first drive of the second half they padded their lead. This time it was fullback Sam Reinke taking it in from 28 yards out to put Rockford up two possessions once again.
“Offensively we just keep plodding along,” Rockford head coach Ralph Munger said of his teams methodic style.
Clarkston made things interesting late thanks to an eight yard strike from Zezula to Senior runningback Alex Dicea that made the score 19 to 14 with a little over two minutes to play. Zezula was 13 for 25 for 153 yards passing and two touchdowns on the day. But Rockford would seal it just two plays later as Kaule would break free for a 52 yard score thanks once again to some great blocking from the Rockford offensive line.
“I gotta thank the line because they’re the ones that are blocking and doing all the really hard work that matters” said Scott Kaule of his teams play in the trenches.
Clarkston runningback Ian Eriksen finished the day with 22 carries for 118 yards but was not the major force he had been all season long, mostly thanks to the great play of the Rockford defense. That, along with two missed fields goals by junior Shane Hynes, was the major difference in this game. But Clarkston still had a remarkable season.
“The kids had a great season. They’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” said coach Richardson of his teams accomplishments this year.
Meanwhile, Rockford now moves on to the semifinals to face Detroit Catholic Central, who knocked them out in this very round just last year. The time and place for that game are to be determined.