BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Clarkston’s gridiron heroes overcame a 16-point deficit in the final stanza of their MHSAA Football Division 1 Regional game at Holland West Ottawa. The 29-22 win propels them to the Final Four.
“The ending was just fun. Everybody was out on the field taking pictures with the trophy. It was cool,” said Kurt Richardon, long-time head coach for Clarkston Varsity Football. “It was a great fourth quarter. It was a pretty good second half. We didn’t play good the first half. I don’t know if it was the 2-hour bus drive, but we were kind of flat. Second half, we got it going. Josh Cantu and the offensive line were outstanding.”
Cantu scored within the first minute of the final quarter off a 1-yard run. Before West Ottawa could score, Wolf Garrett Joseph recovered a fumble putting Clarkston at the Panther’s 15-yard line. Seconds later Cantu would add another 15-yard touchdown run to the board.
Quarterback Nate Uballe followed each touchdown with a 2-point conversion pass to senior Tieler Houston, tying the game 22-22. With just over three minutes left in the game, Cantu scored again on a 29-yard line.
“Anytime Josh is doing well that means the offensive line is too,” Richardson explained. “They are the one who really took command of that game.”
He added defense turned things around in the second half as well.
“We started putting pressure on the quarterback,” he said. “We started flying to the football like we have been doing. We didn’t do that in the first half. We were playing real cautious. We caused a couple of turnovers. We did some good things in the second half, the fourth quarter especially.”
The Wolves opened the game with a 2-yard touchdown run from Cantu.
“We came out and scored right away, and I thought ‘okay, we are good,’” Richardson shared. “Then, we just, I don’t know, flat there for a little while. I don’t know what the reason was.”
The Panthers closed the first quarter taking the lead with a field goal and a touchdown. They scored 12 more points in the second quarter to lead 22-6 at halftime.
Uballe went 8-for-14 in passing for 94 yards with two interceptions. Houston and Zach Scott caught two passes each. Cantu was the leading rusher with 201 yards on 34 carries. Jermaine Roemer was 1-for-2 on PATs with his first attempt blocked.
Scott led defense with six tackles and blocked one of the Panther’s PAT attempts. Josh Luther and Anthony Simmons had five tackles each. Gino Paese had four tackles, two with loss of yards for West Ottawa.
“Paese was outstanding,” Richardson added. “He was really good at the end. Tieler had a good game.”
The Wolves (10-2) play Detroit Catholic Central (8-4) in the MHSAA Division 1 Football Semifinals on Saturday. The last time Clarkston faced DCC was in 2013 when they beat them for the state championship.
“They are big, strong and run orientated,” Richardson said. “They are a great program with a rich history. It will be a good game. It will be a good battle.”
Kick off is at 1 p.m. at Walled Lake Western, 600 Beck Road, Commerce Township.