October 17, 2012 - With 14.3 seconds to go on the clock at Dragon Stadium, the Wolves clinched the OAA Red title and showed Lake Orion why they are ranked as Division 1's number one football team.
The Jungle cheers on their Wolves during the first half of last Friday’s win. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)
"We knew the objectives before the game," said sophomore quarterback D.J. Zezula after the 21-14 win on Friday. "We knew it would be smash mouth pounding football. We knew when the time came to be ready for it."
The time came with less than two minutes left in the game and Clarkston was trailing by one point. The gridiron heroes were pushed back to their first down on the 38-yard line in their territory after two penalties were called against them.
The snap went back to Zezula, who just came onto the field after just coming in off the bench. He pulled his arm back and threw a 37-yard pass play to senior Alex Dicea.
Fans erupted with cheers as Dicea caught it on the Dragon's 15-yard line.
"When he caught the ball I knew we had the momentum to put it in the endzone," Zezula said. "We knew Lake Orion was going to look for the run and we knew when the option came to throw we would be wide open."
The Wolves kept handing junior running back Ian Eriksen the ball as he kept closing the distance to the endzone. Eriksen finished the anticipation for all of the fans and ran into the endzone with his 1-yard touchdown with 14.3 seconds to go.
Zezula followed with a pass to senior Nathan Yeloushan in the endzone for a 2-point conversion, putting the score 21-14.
"You have to give D.J. a lot of credit," said Kurt Richardson, head coach for Clarkston Varsity Football. "He has been our starter all year and we stuck Caine (Watlington) in there because of the running game. Zezula came off the bench and hit that great pass. He sat there and sat there. That's what we tell the kids – when your turn comes you need to step up."
The Dragons were the first to get on the board after a scoreless first quarter with a 10-yard run from Jacob Miller with 7:34 to go in the half.
Shane Hynes put Clarkston on the board less than four minutes later after scoring on a 38-yard field goal.
The Wolves defense tried to slow Lake Orion down as they took possession but they struck again with 1:20 to go with a 35-yard touchdown made by Dominick Giovinazzo.
Dicea caught the kickoff return and brought the Wolves to the 30-yard line. They were determined and kept closing in as the first half was winding down.
Eriksen finished the drive with 11.3 seconds left on a 5-yard run. A PAT from Hynes brought the score up to 14-10.
Hynes closed the distance a little more in the third quarter with his 37-yard field goal with 4:52 left.
"We talked at half time about taking care of the ball and shutting them down," said Richardson. "The boys responded in the second half. They didn't get down. They have a lot of belief in themselves. They thought they were going to win it all along."
Eriksen carried the ball 44 times for 177 yards.
"He runs so tough," said Richardson. "He's so strong - mentally and physically. Anytime the ball comes up he is just a hoss."
Watlington was back on the field after being injured and carried the ball 11 times for 27 yards.
Junior David Beedle led defense with seven tackles with two of them causing 8-yard losses for Lake Orion. Senior Dylan Hancook had six tackles and junior Nick Matich had four tackles and four assists.
"We made mistakes placing in the ball game," said Chris Bell, Dragons' head coach. "We have a lot to learn from. We had our opportunities. To their credit, Clarkston made plays when they had to and won the ball game."
The Wolves head to Oak Park this Friday for a OAA Red-White Crossover game, 6 p.m. before they head into playoffs, starting Oct. 26. Zezula added playing Lake Orion will help as the team prepares for this week and playoffs.
"It helps with character and confidence," he said. "We know where our team is at."
"Orion is a class team," Richardson added. "They play so quick and they play good defense. They have great speed. They are as good as anybody we are going to play."
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The Freshman and JV teams also clinched OAA Red titles last week. The Freshman team remained undefeated as they beat Lake Orion last Thursday, 44-19. The JV team was also undefeated with a score 38-22 over the Dragons.
Both host their last game of the season this Thursday against Oak Park. The Freshman begin at 4:30 p.m. at Clarkston Junior High School Stadium; JV follows at 7 p.m. at Clarkston High School Stadium.
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.