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Zezula and Clarkston ready to take aim at another big season as practices are set to begin statewide

Football   | Jeff Dullack

State Champs! Sports Network

ROCHESTER – A season ago, D.J. Zezula helped lead Clarkston to new heights as the Wolves won their first state championship in school history.

Now, with practice beginning statewide on Monday, Zezula and the Wolves enter the 2014 season with a newfound pressure, but similar expectations.

Along with the pressure, the Wolves will undoubtedly have a target on their back all season long, but that’s something that the senior signal caller said that he and his teammates have embraced in offseason workouts, which will also carry into the fall as well.

“There’s definitely going to be that thought in our mind in every practice that we know that we’re the hunted,” said Zezula, who will be entering his third season as the starting quarterback for Clarkston this fall. “And that drives us to have a great practice every single day to leave it all on the field.”

But this season for Clarkston, it will have to make up for the loss of several key players, including six starters who moved on to play Division I college football.

But even with the losses, the Wolves still have high expectations this year and still have a number of D-1 recruits on the roster for the upcoming fall.

Zezula noted that last year, the Wolves were able to use their size and physicality on their way to a 13-1 record, but this year, Clarkston will look to use the experience it gained from its state title run to its advantage.

“Last year we just outmuscled and outran everyone, we had a lot of talent, we could distribute the ball pretty evenly,” the senior quarterback said at Friday's OAA media day. “But this year, there’s not going to be so much size, but there’s going to be more experience and smarts. We’re going to watch film, we’re all experienced, we know the speed of the game and that’s how we’re going to be teams.”

This fall, Zezula will look to build on an impressive junior campaign where he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 2,332 yards and 19 touchdowns, while throwing just three interceptions.

Zezula won’t be short on targets this fall as Clarkston returns several receivers including tight end and Miami (OH) commit Cole Chewins.

“It’s definitely pushing us harder,” Chewins said of Clarkston being the team to beat in 2014. “We know that we have to step up to the challenge and everyone’s going to be coming for us and we’re just going to go out and put in our work and do what we can.”

Chewins will be joined in the receiving corps by Shane Holler, Austin Egler and Joe Popp, while Centrus Williams Jr. is expected to see more time at running back this fall and the offensive line will be anchored by Adam Matich, who is getting looks from several D-1 schools.

As for the players replacing the key members of last year’s team who graduated, Zezula said that the message he will have for those players is to be aggressive in competing for those starting positions this fall.

“Don’t sit and wait,” he said. “You just have to battle and grind and push your team to be better, because that’s what makes good competition and that’s what makes great teams.”

Clarkston will open up the season on August 28, where it will play host to Macomb Dakota.