Nail-biting. Heart pounding. Nerve wracking. Those were just a few effects last Friday’s MHSAA Division 1 District game between Clarkston and Lapeer had on the hundreds of fans at Clarkston High School.
All the excitement led to celebration for the Wolves and fans as the Clarkston Varsity Football team clinched their third consecutive district title and their 24th consecutive win, 23-20.
‘This is a stepping stone of where we want to be in about three weeks,? said senior quarterback DJ Zezula. ‘You can’t get there without this.?
‘Good teams have to win ugly,? said long-time head coach Kurt Richardson. ‘You aren’t always going to perform to your best. We got it done. There were a lot of times we could have bent – that’s a heck of a football team.?
The Lapeer Lightning started with control of the ball, leading to their first touchdown three minutes in from Brian Bach. Senior Merrick Canada blocked the PAT attempt.
The lead was short at the Wolves struck a minute later with a 14-yard touchdown from Austin Egler. A successful PAT attempt from Alex Kessman put the Wolves up 7-6.
With 1:34 remaining in the first quarter, Lapeer took the lead on the scoreboard with another touchdown and an extra point.
The Lightning began making their journey for another scoring opportunity in the second quarter after they took over possession two minutes in. Tackles from Jack McKillop and Will Scarlett slowed them down but it was Cole Chewins sack on the 1-yard line in Lapeer’s turf on the third down which put a stop to Lapeer. It forced the Lightning to punt on their next play.
Joe Popp caught the kick and ran before he was stopped on the 25-yard line. Two plays later Nolan Eriksen brought the Wolves back into the lead with his 12-yard run into the endzone.
With 1:26 remaining in the first half, the Wolves struck again with a 57-yard touchdown pass to Canada from Zezula, putting the score at 20-13.
‘We knew we had to throw the ball,? Zezula said. ‘They knew it as well. The touchdown play was a short pass. I read they had too many guys in the box and took advantage of it.?
Clarkston scored again on a 28-yard field goal from Kessman.
Zezula threw 10-for-17 for 193 yards. Canada caught four passes for 90 yards.
The leading rusher was Eriksen with 77 yards on 12 carries. Egler carried the ball three times for 55 yards.
‘We had a hiccup every team has a hiccup,? Zezula reflected about the win. ‘Unfortunately it was in the playoffs. Great teams bounce back and they always come together. It was great to see the defense show up and pick our offense up. Everyone says our offense carries the team and that’s not true. This is a great example. I am proud of defense and what they did today.?
McKillop led defense with seven tackles and five assists. Bryce Witherspoon had seven tackles and two assists. Dayne Rogers had five tackles and six assists. Popp had five tackles and one assist.
Chewins and Tristen Lewis each had a sack. Lewis also blocked a field goal attempt. Egler had one interception, leading at five for the season.
The Wolves host Walled Lake Central in the MHSAA Regional game this Friday at 7 p.m. They beat West Bloomfield in a close 11-7 game.
‘They are a very well-coached team,? said Richardson. ‘I know they have a good quarterback. They beat West Bloomfield – they are for real.?

About a minute left between Wolves and rival Lake Orion, the Dragons? Vincent Booker brought his team into the lead.
His three-point field goal put Lake Orion up one point, but it didn’t last.
A few seconds later, Clarkston’s Oliver Kupe put the Wolves back into the lead with a two-pointer.
Two points down, after a penalty shot by Julius Porter, Lake Orion had one last chance.
But Matt Kamieniecki jumped into the air, grabbing the ball and stopping any chance the Dragons may have thought they had.
Clarkston’s cagers won their OAA crossover game with Lake Orion, 48-46, bringing the Wolves to 5-0.
The last game for the Wolves had been two weeks prior. Even with the break, they came out Friday night to play a high-paced, action-packed game of basketball.
‘We showed enough character to win the game and fight back, even though we struggled most of the night,? said Coach Dan Fife after the game.
‘We turned the ball over and kept giving them easy baskets, easy hooks.?
The struggle began in the first quarter and kept going in the rest of the game as each team stayed close to their opposition, matching them point for point.
The game heightened as the last eight minutes of the game began counting down.
The Dragons led going into the last quarter, 37-35. Kupe tied the score one minute into the quarter, and teammates, Brandon Pokley, Porter, and Brandon Verlinden contributed six more points to put the Wolves more into the lead. Lake Orion caught up and took the lead again with Booker’s three pointer.
During the game, Kupe had the challenge of guarding a 6?7? Dragon, Drew Maynard, throughout the game.
‘He was twice the size of me,? said Kupe. ‘It was really hard but I had help from Kami and the guys in the middle. It helped me out on him. He scored 25 points. He was pretty hard to guard.?
High scorers for Clarkston were Kupe with 16, Pokley with 13, Porter with 11 points.
The high scorers for Lake Orion were Drew Maynard with 31 and Jeff Heath with 11 points.
‘You can point to a million things,? said Lake Orion coach Jim Manzo. ‘I’m just proud of the way our kids competed. It was a pretty good high school basketball game. It’s a tough game to lose. I think In the long run that game is going to help us.?
Manzo warned his team, ‘they don’t take nights off over here. They play extremely hard. They’re going to come out and play hard every single night and I think our kids did the same.?
‘It hurt us,? said Fife about the break between games. ‘It looked like we weren’t in game shape.
‘I don’t like time off once the season gets going. I don’t like those kind of down times We have done it before and it didn’t hurt us. But it hurt us tonight.
‘I told our team, I made a mistake just as well as they made enough mistakes. They put 10 years on my life there. I give some credit to Lake Orion, they played last night, to come in here tonight and give us that kind of effort and that kind of game.?
The Dragons played the previous night, winning against Birmingham Groves.
While sports enthusiasts are anticipating what will happen when Clarkston and Lake Orion meet up again in the district finals, Coach Fife plans to take it game by game.
‘We have a long season to go before I think about another game with Lake Orion. We both have to get there. That’s not easy.?
The Varsity team will play Tuesday at Southfield-Lathrup and will host Carmen-Ainsworth at home on Friday.
The JV team will begin at 5:30 with Varsity following.