October 23, 2013 - By Joe St. Henry
Special to The Review
Lake Orion and Clarkston traded punches on the football field like heavyweight fighters last Friday before the Wolves took control in the final 12 minutes for a 49-28 victory over the Dragons.
The game was tied at 28-28 with five minutes left in the third quarter. Clarkston then scored 21 straight points thanks to running back Ian Eriksen, who finished with 238 yards and six touchdowns against the Dragons.
"We didn't play well defensively," said Head Coach Chris Bell. "We need to play better."
Clarkston captured the OAA Red title with the win, while Lake Orion (6-2) dropped its second game of the season to finish in third place. The Dragons close the regular season at home this week in an OAA crossover game against Oak Park.
The annual rivalry game between Lake Orion and Clarkston featured nearly 1,000 yards of total offense between the two teams. The Dragons were led by senior Chris Leigh's 102 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground, plus a scoring reception. Senior quarterback Connor Grant went 14-24 for 147 yards, with two scoring passes.
"Offensively we did a lot of good things and moved the ball up and down the field," Bell said. "Unfortunately, we didn't convert on four or five plays and that was the difference in the game. We have to finish drives."
On its first possession, Clarkston marched 72 yards to the end zone to take the early lead. Lake Orion responded, however, by driving 66 yards on 11 plays, capped by Grant's 15-yard touchdown pass to Leigh to tie the game. It was 7-7 after the first quarter.
The Wolves then scored two touchdowns in a row to seemingly take command of the game, 21-7, with a little more than five minutes left before halftime. But the Dragons mounted a 12-play, 80-yard drive and scored on Grant' second touchdown pass, this time to senior wide receiver Corey Ester, to cut the lead to 21-14. Lake Orion's defense then held Clarkston to a missed field goal attempt, giving the Dragons valuable momentum going into halftime.
After the break, Clarkston punched back by regaining its two touchdown lead, thanks to Eriksen's third rushing score of the game. Lake Orion quickly countered five plays later, however, with Leigh jetting 44 yards to the end zone.
Back within seven points, the Dragons then recovered an onside kick and struck again less than three minutes later, when Leigh ran 15 yards for his third touchdown of the night. After the extra point, the game was tied, 28-28, with five minutes left in the third quarter.
"We were struggling defensively, so we had to score to keep the pressure on them," Bell said.
Lake Orion indeed needed a defensive stop, but Clarkston had other plans. Led by Eriksen's running, the Wolves drove 70 yards on nine plays to take the lead again, 35-28, before the end of the third quarter. The game then turned for good in the final quarter when Clarkston stopped Lake Orion on fourth down at the Wolves' 35 yard line. On the next play, Eriksen bolted 65 yards for his fifth score.
The Dragons were intercepted twice on their last two drives, one of which led to Eriksen's sixth rushing touchdown of the night, capping the scoring for the Wolves.
Oak Park presents another challenge for Lake Orion in the regular season finale.
Bell said this week's opponent is well coached and talented, having lost to Southfield and Farmington Hills Harrison by a total of only four or five points.
"It doesn't get any easier," he said. "This will be a tough game and then the playoffs start."