December 04, 2013 - BY WENDI REARDON
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Long-time head coach Kurt Richardson hoisted up the trophy while Clarkston's gridiron heroes and coaches surrounded him.
The Wolves successfully achieved their dream by becoming MHSAA Division 1 Football State Champion, defeating Detroit Catholic Central, 32-14.
"This is for Clarkston and it truly was," Richardson smiled. "For every kid who ever wore a uniform, every parent who sat in the stands, even for the guy who says 'what did you call that for?' It was truly remarkable. It was a great day for C-Town."
"They played a great game," Richardson added. "They were so composed and all about the football game and not all the hype. They handled everything so maturely from going down there to the kids who were in the press conference. They handled themselves in a first class way."
The Wolves kept Catholic Central scoreless in the first quarter by changing their game to match the Shamrocks - controlling the clock and keeping Clarkston offense on the field.
"They executed the game plan to a tee," Defensive Coordinator Tony Miller said about the defensive line. "They executed it perfectly. For them to believe in it and for us to have the faith in them we thought they could do it – kudos to them. They didn't second guess it. I think they liked it."
Both teams continued to keep each other scoreless in the second quarter. The Shamrocks slowly started working towards Clarkston's territory with a few stops by Wolves' defense on their way and gained 16 yards. They lost six yards after Wolf David Beedle sacked their quarterback and two more yards seconds later on Nick Matich's sack.
The Wolves claimed the first score on the board when junior quarterback DJ Zezula connected a 15-yard pass to junior wide receiver Shane Holler for a touchdown 13 seconds left in the half, finishing 91 yards in 17 plays.
They struck again four minutes into the second half with a touchdown from Ian Eriksen when the senior runningback scored on a 37-yard run to put the boys up to 12-0.
Clarkston defense slowed Detroit Catholic Central again - this time with stops by Dom Monson, Reid Kaminski, Beedle and suffered a 9-yard loss with a sack from Eriksen.
It was that moment when the Shamrocks' quarterback rolled to the left Miller knew the outcome of the game.
"When Ian made the sack I knew we were going to win the state title," he said. "It was a critical point in the game. It was very critical."
Four minutes later he scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard run, putting the score to 18-0.
The Shamrocks followed it by putting their first touchdown on the board from a 2-yard run from Dylan Roney.
During the final quarter the Wolves struck the scoreboard twice more beginning with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Zezula to senior wide receiver Caine Watlington
The final touchdown came from a 12-yard run made by Eriksen, for his third for the championship game.
Richardson added he felt confident going into the game even though many were predicting the Shamrocks to win another championship.
"We had a phenomenal week in practice," he said. "The kids were flying around with energy yet they were so focused. I felt very confident. Now as far as when did I let out a sigh of relief - not until it hit zeros."
Eriksen rushed 242 yards on 32 carries during the game and scored three touchdowns.
Zezula went 10-for-15 in passing for 154 yards. Holler caught three passes for 34 yards while Watlington caught two passes for 53 yards and Egler also caught two for 14 yards.
Shane Hynes scored on two PAT attempts.
"The kids in the trenches don't get enough credit," Richardson said about the offensive line. "They did a phenomenal job - the line and the guys up front. Eriksen - what can you say about that kid? He is just one of a kind. DJ managed the game well. Our receivers caught the ball and made some tough catches. It was a very good performance against a very good team."
Merrick Canada led defense with seven tackles. Kaminski had four tackles and three assists while Jacob Armstrong had three tackles and four assists.
"The defense kids rose to the challenge. They knew what CC was about," Richardson said. "They knew they were going to pound the ball. Shane Hynes kicking it in the endzone the whole time. It was a total team victory."
"I am very proud," Miller added. "I thought we could do it. I told the kids before the game and before we left the school if we wanted to bring the trophy back home defense had to do it."
The team loses 24 players to graduation and each one left an impact for years to come.
"They have raised the bar," Richardson said. "These kids know what it's like and have had a taste. The seniors did an awesome job."
Miller added the seniors led with leadership. He recalled a cold and dreary day last spring Richardson and him were at the field house construction and the players were on the field doing off-season training.
"When you have things like that going on on a cold nasty day leadership is what the seniors brought for us and we will be forever thankful to them," he said. "We were cohesive at the start but the last couple of weeks you would have had to take a chisel to try to separate this team. They got together. There was a bond you could feel - they are family.
"These kids will never ever forget this feeling. I was on the state championship wrestling team and we still have our reunions. They will be bonded by this by their accomplishment," Miller added.
The Wolves finished with a 13-1 record.
* * *
A message from KR:
To the thousands of fans cheering at Ford Field and those following the game from afar.
"I would like to thank all the Clarkston people for what they did on Saturday," Richardson expressed. "It was unbelievable. It was so tremendous. It was like having a 12th man there. It's what Clarkston is all about.
"It was spine tingling," he added about the community support. "I don't usually notice that much during the game but during one of the time outs I walked back, looked up and went 'oh my god.' It made my skin tingle."
He also gives thanks and kudos to his assistant coaches.
"They did a phenomenal job," Richardson said. "These guys take time away from their families. It's a long season. We started in August and it is December. Sunday nights they are never home – they are game planning. I have great assistant coaches who dedicate themselves to the program and that's all the way from seventh grade and up. I always say that is one of the reasons we are good – because of all the coaches we have at the younger levels. They deserve a piece of the credit, too. The guys on the varsity are just unbelievable. I love those guys!
"For me, being a hometown kid, being lucky enough to coach here and grow up here and work in the community - it was so special to be able to give something back," he added. "Six of our eight coaches went to school and played football here and I know they feel the same way. The other two guys, though they didn't go here, they feel the same way, too. To give that back to Clarkston and from former players it was super special."
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.