FOOTBALL: Clarkston stymies Troy Athens in 28-0 shutout

| October 2, 2015 | Comments (0)

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CLARKSTON — Bit-by-bit Clarkston is re-tooling its lineup, as healthy players are starting to return to the fold.

Instead of a team that one month ago more resembled a giant band-aid then a well-oiled machine, the Wolves won their third straight game Friday with a resounding 28-0 shutout of visiting Troy Athens in OAA Red Division play.

Clarkston’s defense held the opposition to 10 or fewer points for the third time this season and the Wolves (4-2, 4-1) never allowed the Red Hawks (3-3, 3-2) to find any daylight.

Clarkston held Athens to only 22 rushing yards on the night, while yielding only 41 passing yards.

“I thought our defense stepped up and played a really good game. We never allowed them to get into any type of flow,” said Clarkston head coach Kurt Richardson of his team’s first shutout since October of 2013.

Clarkston (4-2, 4-1) scored on a trio of big plays for a 21-0 lead at the half. The Wolves added another touchdown drive in the second half to put the game away.

“We never got going on offense. Nothing really seemed to work tonight,” sighed Athens coach Josh Heppner. “We need to simplify things from here on out. We have too much spread and different plays that we are trying and they, as we saw, are not working. Clarkston’s defense was good, but we gave up three really big plays and that was the difference. We cannot give up the big play against a team like this and expect to win.”

Sophomore Michael Fluegel broke free for a 75-yard TD sprint on Clarkston’s second drive for a 7-0 advantage with 6:29 left in the first quarter.

The Wolves scored again on their fourth drive of the first half, this time with senior quarterback Alex Kessman finding a wide open junior Jonah Koponen down the middle of the field for a 57-yard touchdown strike 8:38 before the half.

Kessman, thrusted into the starting QB role three weeks helped due to an injury, helped cap an 80-yard drive when he found senior Hayden Schoenherr down the far sideline for a 28-yard touchdown pass — a play where Schoenherr received several key blocks en route to paydirt. That aided a 21-0 halftime lead.

“It’s all about trust and trusting each other,” said Kessman, who had an off night as a kicker by missing four long field goals. “I am really comfortable out there and we are starting to come together.”

Clarkston’s offense was aided by the return of senior running back Nolan Eriksen, who finished with 20 carries for 72 yards and also caught a 16-yard pass in his return after missing the first five weeks with a high ankle sprain.

“I think we are starting to click a little bit. Having Nolan back is a big plus for us,” noted Richardson. “He was a little rusty at first, but he got going a little bit. Having him in there gives us another option and makes us more dangerous.”

Clarkston scored on its second drive of the third quarter on another big play, this time with Kessman firing a 53-yard heave to Schoenherr.

Kessman finished the night 8-for-13 passing for 207 yards and three touchdown passes, a career best. Fluegel added seven rushes for 92 yards, while Schoenherr hauled in three catches for 92 yards and Koponen added 72 receiving yards on three catches.

Athens was forced into eight punts and turned the ball over on downs twice in the contest. The Red Hawks compiled only 50 yards of offense in the first half.

“We left our defense out there most of the game,” said Heppner. “We have to change that down the stretch. I feel that we can win our next two games and hopefully go into the OAA Crossover game Week 9 with a chance. We have no one to blame but ourselves for being in this position at 3-3.”

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