In Play with Tom Markowski

Clarkston wins 25th straight, heads to semifinals

Football   | Tom Markowski

State Champs! Sports Network

 

Clarkston – Don’t look for any crazy jubilation after a Clarkston victory. And there’s no talking trash, either. Coach Kurt Richardson wouldn’t stand for it. That’s not the way they do things in Clarkston. They play football the right way and they’re good at it.

Quarterback D.J. Zezula ran for three touchdowns and threw for another as Clarkston won its 25h consecutive game as it defeated Walled Lake Central 40-22 in a Division 1 region final on Friday at Clarkston.

Clarkston (12-0), the defending state champions, advanced to the semifinals for the third time in six years and will play the winner of Saturday’s Hudsonville (7-4)-East Kentwood (10-1) game on Nov. 22 at a site to be determined. Jackson’s Withington Stadium is a possible site.

This game was an example of how champions play. Clarkston did not commit a turnover and was called for three penalties. The Wolves scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions and led 21-7 early in the second quarter.

Central (9-3) pulled to within 21-14 at halftime and Clarkston answered by scoring touchdowns on each of its first two drives to take a 33-14 lead.

“They controlled things,” Central coach Bob Meyer said. “They got crucial yards when they needed it. That fourth down call? That’s how you win championships. Obviously, that’s a championship team. “They’re quarterback did a great job of taking what was there. They played a great game.”

Zezula is the leader of this team and has been the past two seasons. He hasn’t forgotten where this team came from and where they’re at now. It wasn’t long ago that Clarkston was that program many pointed to as one of the best programs that hadn’t won a state title. Now they’re the team every team is chasing.

“We’ve been here before,” he said. “We know what it takes. That first game last year still haunts us.”

Clarkston lost to Rochester Adams in the 2013 season opener and hasn’t lost since.

The Wolves are a team that goes about it business like person leaving home in the morning for work with a briefcase and a mug of coffee. It’s all about getting the job done.

Zezula isn’t a player who’ll blow you away with statistics. Normally he’ll get his 150-to-175 yards passing and 60-70 yards rushing. Against Central he called his own number because that’s what the defense gave him. Zezula rushed for 104 yards on 16 carries and was 8-15 passing for 129 yards.

Zezula showed his leadership qualities when Clarkston faced a second-and-19 from its own 13 with four minutes in the third. The Wolves led 27-14 and of Central could hold them on downs the momentum could have turned.

“I told my guys in the huddle,” Zezula said. “If we get this first down they’re never going to catch us.”

After an incomplete pass Zezula ran for 18 yards leaving Clarkston a yard short of the first. Richardson decided to go for it and Nolan Eriksen ran three yards for the first down. Zezula ran for 21 yards on the next play and seven plays later he scored from four yards out for a 33-14 lead.

In essence, that drive was the clincher.

Eriksen, who rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, added a 43-yard touchdown run after Central had pulled to within 33-22.

“We had the momentum,” Richardson said of his decision to go for it on fourth down. “I’m getting old I guess. They were jelling tonight. Our kids wanted it.”