FOOTBALL: Clarkston motors past Walled Lake Central to reach Final Four

| November 15, 2014 | Comments (0)

Wolves advance to third semifinals in six years, fifth in 16 seasons




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CLARKSTON — With each passing week, Clarkston becomes a more confident football program.

“We are very confident, but not cocky or arrogant,” offered veteran Clarkston football coach Kurt Richardson. “This whole senior class are great leaders, and DJ Zezula is the leader of leaders.”

Zezula, Clarkston’s third-year starting quarterback, finished Friday night by going 8-for-16 passing for 118 yards and one touchdown pass, while he rushed for 108 yards on 13 carries and three more scores in leading the top-ranked Wolves to a 40-22 victory over visiting Walled Lake Central in the Division 1 regional finals.

The win propels Clarkston into their second straight Final Four, third in six seasons and fifth over a 16-year span. The Wolves, now winners of 25 straight contests, will face the winner of the East Kentwood-Hudsonville regional final next Saturday in the state semifinals at a site to be determined.

Junior Nolan Eriksen, much like his two-time All-State brother Ian Eriksen, punished Walled Lake Central (9-3) with 159 yards on 15 carries and two scores. His 43-yard touchdown sprint untouched with 2:28 left was the back-breaker and kept the Wolves’ hopes for a second straight state title still intact.

Clarkston, now 12-0, has not lost since the 2013 season opener to Rochester Adams. The Wolves finished last season on a 13-game win streak and have reeled off 12 more wins this season to put together the longest win streak of the 21 years of the Oakland Activities Association.

“I can’t say enough about this senior class,” said Richardson, who now has five regional championships in his 28-year tenure. “They keep stepping up with every challenge that comes their way.”

Walled Lake Central upset Clarkston on its home turf in the district finals in 2011. The Wolves remembered that defeat. Central coach Bob Meyer admitted that pulling off another upset — the Vikings upset fifth-ranked West Bloomfield 11-7 in last week’s district finals — would be a tall order against the state’s top team.

“That is a great team. They haven’t lost a game in quite a while,” said Meyer of Clarkston. “Last week we pulled the upset of West Bloomfield and played some great defense. We knew how good Clarkston was, and it would be hard to beat them again. We got them a couple of years ago here. We couldn’t pull any surprises on them (this time). They are a great football team, a lot of weapons and very well coached. I’m proud of my boys for getting this far.”

Walled Lake Central struck first on a swift three-play drive, as Jachari Robinson blazed a 58-yard trail with 10:31 left in the first quarter. That would be the only lead the Vikings would enjoy on the evening.

The Wolves answered with three touchdown drives for a 21-7 advantage and the lead for good by early in the second quarter.

Zezula connected with Austin Egler (six catches, 94 yards) on a 25-yard TD strike with 8:24 left in the opening frame to tie the score at 7-7. Zezula added a 13-yard run with 2:05 remaining in the first period for the 14-7 lead, and Eriksen scampered home from 38 yards out with 10:40 left in the second frame for the 14-point lead.

Walled Lake Central did trim into the deficit with 46.3 ticks remaining in the first half on Nick Krumm’s 6-yard run. Clarkston missed 38-yard field goal barley wide right to end the half to settle for the 21-14 lead.

The Wolves scored on their first drive of the second half, when Zezula plunged into the end zone from 1 yard out with 8:52 remaining in the third stanza, while Zezula scored again on Clarkston’s next drive which was capped by his 4-yard plunge through traffic.

“Last year we lost our opener (to Rochester Adams) have not lost since. We have a lot of seniors on this team that don’t want to lose,” offered Zezula, who ranks well inside in the top five for career passing yards at Clarkston. “We still have (two more) to go.”

The Vikings were able to cut the lead down to 11 points worth 2:45 left in the contest Krumm’s 1-yard run. That was as close as the visitors would get. Krumm, a four-year starter, bowed out with 113 rushing yards and two TDs on 24 carries to go along with 27 passing yards.


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