FOOTBALL: Clarkston regains OAA-Red title to enter postseason on a roll

| October 25, 2020 | Comments (0)

Wolves draw familiar foe Oxford in pre-district contest




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CLARKSTON — After a trying, injury-plagued season in 2019 where Clarkston finished 3-6 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2002, the Wolves are finally back near the top of the pile in terms of Division 1 programs in the state.

Clarkston put the finishing touches on the OAA Red Division title and perfect regular season by storming past visiting Oak Park 47-0 on Friday night.

It marked the Wolves’ 17th league title since 1950 and sixth unbeaten regular season since the MHSAA began the postseason in 1975.

Three-time state champion Clarkston finished 6-0 overall and 5-0 inside the OAA-Red. The Wolves also finished unbeaten in the regular season in 1977, 1996, 2000, 2009 and 2014.

With 75.333 total playoff points, Clarkston finished just ahead of Plymouth Canton and Belleville for most playoffs points in Division 1 — and playing all teams from the OAA Red And White divisions did the trick.

“We’re playing well. But we do have a ways to go,” said veteran head coach Kurt Richardson, trying to curb the Wolves’ excitement and accomplishments so far this season. There are much higher goals for Clarkston still to reach.

Clarkston captured Division 1 state titles in 2013, 2014 and 2017, finished as the state runner-up in 2018 and reached the Final Four in 1999, 2000 and 2009. The Wolves also competed in the regional finals three other times and will be making their 23rd all-time postseason appearance this season.

“We have a lot of things still to work on,” said Richardson. “We’re getting there, but now it’s the postseason and no easy games. And we need to get healthy. We’re still missing some key guys who are week-to-week.”

This season is much like the 14-0 unbeaten season despite the six-week shortened campaign. The Wolves are senior-laden and rolling opponents.

Clarkston has outscored the opposition 196-66 over the COVID-shortened season. The Wolves are averaging 32.7 points a game and giving up only 11.0 points a contest.

While the Wolves’ top two running back have been hurt and out of the lineup the past 2-3 weeks — sophomore Ethan Clark (ankle) and senior Ayden Brooks (ribs) — the team has not sputtered with a depleted running game. Sophomore Michael Hein has done an adequate job behind perhaps the state’s offensive line.

“That has helped, having such an experienced line,” said Richardson. “Hopefully we can get those guys back soon.”

Senior linemen Rocco Spindler (Notre Dame), Garrett Dellinger (LSU), Owen Foster (D-II, D-III offers) and Ben Haas (D-I, D-II recruit), sophomore lineman Cole Dellinger (D-I recruit), and senior tight end Blake Kosin (Division I Northern Illinois) have been nothing short of spectacular during the undefeated campaign.

Taking snaps, 6-foot-5 junior signal-caller Mike DePillo has matured into a leader behind center. Although Clarkston has had over a half-dozen All-State quarterbacks over the past 25 years, DePillo is slowly climbing the charts on the Wolves’ on-time list.

“He’s getting there,” said Richardson. “We’ve had some good ones over the years and he’s slowly getting there. Mike has worked really hard to work on his accuracy and he’s matured quite a bit since last year.”

Senior Logan Forbes, who did not play high school football the past three years to concentrate on basketball, has worked his way onto the college radar for football as the Wolves’ top receiver. Some NAIA and NCAA Division III schools have taken notice, and if Clarkston can make another long run in the playoffs he could be a steal at larger schools.

“He’s been our biggest surprise,” said Richardson. “He’s a kid that concentrated on basketball and will now likely play football in college. He’s been so good as a receiver for us.”

Against Oak Park, Forbes had a trio of touchdown receptions — all of throws from DePillo — to lead the Wolves. Hein added a pair of touchdown runs, as did DePillo in the rout.

Clarkston led 19-0 at the half and outscored the Knights 28-0 in the second half for the Wolves’ first shutout since they defeated Lapeer 13-0 in the D-1 regional finals on Nov. 9, 2018.

The Wolves’ defense has also been stellar over the last three weeks. Clarkston has only yielded 14 total points in that span — 31-7 over Lake Orion, 35-7 over Birmingham Seaholm and 47-0 against Oak Park. Only West Bloomfield has scored more than 20 points on Clarkston in Week 3, and the Wolves rallied for a 24-21 overtime win over the state-ranked Lakers in that contest.

Senior Kyle Jaystra and junior Caleb Stalworth have been shutdown linebackers and amongst the team leaders in tackles. Seniors Josh Adams (CB) and Alec Boan (SE) have improved in the secondary to stop the big play, and junior Ian Olson has filled in with some sterling performances at strong safety.

“Alec Boan has been really steady back there, and Josh Adams — he’s become a lot better since last season. He’s really come on this season,” praised Richardson.

Plus, several of the offensive lineman, led by blue-chippers Spindler and Garrett Dellinger, have helped plug holes near the line of scrimmage.

After six weeks last season, Clarkston gave up 172 points — the Wolves allowed 304 points over nine games a year ago — while this year have given up only 66 pants. That is a 106-point improvement in a six-week period over last week.

“Our defense is simply better in every way than last year,” said Richardson. “We had all of those injuries last year. Now other than the two running backs have been out, we have most of our guys here. Our defense has been really good.”

Clarkston is in an eight-team district where three teams are unbeaten, including defending state champion Davison and OAA Blue Division champion Rochester. The district also boasts once-beaten Grand Blanc (5-1), Lapeer (3-3), Lake Orion (3-2), Rochester Adams (2-4) and Oxford (2-4). The Wolves will host Oxford in a pre-district contest Friday at 7 p.m.

Clarkston defeated Oxford 35-14 in Week 2.

“It was a lot closer than what the score indicated,” offered Richardson. “They moved the football on us. We made a couple of nice stops on defense and drove the ball on them. I expect it will be a lot closer than last time we played them. Oxford is young but they are not a bad football team.

“It’s also a really tough district. I think it might be the toughest in terms of teams in our district and three undefeated teams,” continued Richardson. “It will b e a dogfight for sure.”

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