STICKRADT COLUMN: Richardson, Clarkston Community can finally celebrate long-awaited destiny as a football state champion
DETROIT — It’s not too often that Clarkston posts a losing record in the staple of high school sports — football.
In 27 years under Kurt Richardson, the Wolves have endured only three of those painful campaigns, the last coming in 2002.
Although with mostly winning seasons in the past 30 years, the Wolves’ football program has had its fair share of ups and downs over the years — and plenty of heartbreak in the postseason.
Three times Clarkston lost in the state semifinals and all three times the Wolves held a lead in the final two minutes of those contests only to watch the opposition advance to the state title game while leaving the Clarkston faithful wondering “what if” time and time again.
Even as recent as 2012, Clarkston held the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press Division 1 poll for more than half of the season only to collapse in the regional finals. For whatever the reason, the Wolves could not get to the final day of the Michigan prep football season over the years.
Clarkston’s 2009 squad lost on a last-second play to Sterling Heights Stevenson following a controversial call that has stung and stung hard for those involved since that fateful day. In 1999 and 2000, similar pain was suffered by the Clarkston community after state semifinals defeats.
Clarkston could not get over the hump…that is until 2013.
And unlike any other season in Clarkston’s fine history of high school athletics, the Wolves’ football team finally reached the summit Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit. By virtue of its resounding 32-14 victory over perennial state powerhouse Novi Detroit Catholic Central, Clarkston is officially the Division 1 football state champion.
Watching from the stands or the television set as countless other schools from tradition-rich Oakland County have basked in the glory of state championship lore — Farmington Harrison, Novi Detroit Catholic Central, Birmingham Brother Rice, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Birmingham Detroit Country Day, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, Rochester Adams and Lake Orion have combined for dozens of state championship and state runner-up trophies over the years — the pressure on if Clarkston’s day would ever come was an unsettling, difficult vibe for veteran Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson and his staff to endure for many, many years.
That all came to pass Saturday at Ford Field, where the Wolves drew one of the largest crowds to a state finals contest in state history. The greater Clarkston community was on partial shutdown as the beloved Wolves finally played in a state title game.
They left no doubt who was the cream of the crop.
Richardson, a Clarkston grad himself, was quick to thank eight other assistant coaches, six that are also Clarkston High graduates, plus countless of others for making the Wolves’ slow but steady rise to the top of the charts all worth it.
“It’s all worth it,” said Richardson following the press conference. “This was our goal for a very, very long time.”
Richardson, who along with his staff, players, alumni, parents and others have shed plenty of tears over the years. Those tears of sorrows were turned into tears of joy Saturday afternoon.
“This one was for every kid that has worn the (Clarkston) uniform for us, every fan that froze their butts off, every parent that has called me names — whatever. This was for C-Town,” Richardson addressed the media at the postgame press conference.
This was for C-Town indeed. Clarkston is starved for a football state championship no longer.
The seat at the head of the banquet table is now occupied with maize and blue and this pack of hungry Wolves can finally feast as a state champion.
A status well-earned.
(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. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich., and can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)