Clarkston, Zezula keep winningFootball  |
Clarkston – An hour before kickoff Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson sat with his legs crossed on the Clarkston bench catching a few rays.
Nine months removed from guiding the Wolves to their first football title (Division 1) Richardson is taking things a bit easier these days. Never mind the pressure of being ranked No. 1 in the preseason. Richardson has fingers on the pulse of this program and the patient is in tip-top shape.
Well, at least as season openers go.
Clarkston was impressive, for three and half quarters, in defeating Macomb County’s best and the No 8-ranked team, Macomb Dakota, 24-21, at Clarkston High.
Clarkston had some miscues, especially at the end that made the score closer than how the game was played. Quarterback D.J. Zezula made a poor decision on a deep throw for an interception, there was a late fumble that led to Dakota’s second touchdown and there was a botched punt try that gave Dakota the ball on Clarkston’s 1-yard line with 32.6 seconds left that resulted in the final Dakota score.
“We were sloppy at the end,” Richardson said. “We’ve got to learn to put people away. Other than that I thought we played pretty well. Austin Egler (a safety who had two interceptions) played well defensively and D.J. did some good things on offense.”
Zezula, other than one play, was outstanding. He’s a three-year starter and it shows. Dakota coach said Zezula’s faster than what he saw on film. Zezula rushed for 90 yards on 15 carries and was 7-of-13 for 176 yards and one touchdown. Maybe not gaudy statistics but when Clarkston needed a big play on offense Zezula delivered.
On Clarkston’s first scoring drive Zezula converted twice on third down, the second was a 1`12-yard touchdown pass to Joe Popp.
Clarkston went on top 17-0 just before halftime on Zezula’s 13-yard touchdown run. On the 80-yard, seven-play drive Zezula was 2-2 for 57 yards and carried four times for 23 yards. His 51-yard pass to Nolan Eriksen on a screen pass on a third-and-7 was one of the biggest plays of the game.
It’s immeasurable how much last year’s title season has meant to the community and the confidence the players have taken with them into the season. Zezula said it all comes down to trust.
“Last year 20 of our 22 starters had played together since little league,” Zezula said. “It’s that familiarity.
“It was awesome that first half. I just caught fire. They made mistakes and we capitalized on them.
“The dark cloud over Clarkston is finally away. We got one title. We know what it takes to win another. With all our new faces, it goes back to when we started together. We trust each other.”
Zezula accounted for 194 yards in total offense in the first half. There’s work to be done to get better. That’s what this week of practice is for.
DeWitt 39, Linden 0: A state finalist (Division 4) a year ago, DeWitt picked up an impressive road victory as Jacob Johnson completed 14 of 18 attempts for 241 yards and two touchdowns in less than three quarters of action. Johnson also rushed for 78 yards on 12 carries.