By: Dan Stickradt
FOOTBALL: Cantu, Clarkston rally past Bloomfield Hills to remain unbeaten
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BY DAN STICKRADT
CLARKSTON — In its many wins over the past five seasons, Clarkston has not had to play from behind too often.
So when in doubt Friday evening against Bloomfield Hills, the Wolves simply found another gear.
Trailing 20-13 with 11:08 to go, Clarkston revved up its engine on defense to stymie the Black Hawks. Meanwhile the Wolves erupted on offense in the fourth quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points to rally for a 34-20 OAA Red Division victory over the Blackhawks.
“We needed this,” smiled veteran Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson. “We needed to be tested and its nice to know that we can fight back after being down. We weren’t playing too well on offense and Bloomfield Hills is a good football team.”
Bloomfield Hills (2-1, 1-1) took the lead when senior John Paddock found classmate Ty Slazinski for a 4-yard fade pass in the end zone for a 20-13 advantage.
The Wolves shut down the Black Hawks down the stretch and answered the bell with three straight scoring drives of their own to remain in first place in the division.
Clarkston (3-0, 2-0) knotted the contest at 20-20 when Tieler Houston hauled in a 14-yard strike from Nathan Uballe and dove into the end zone with 9:01 left.
Forcing the Black Hawks to punt on their next possession, Clarkston put together a swift five-play, 57-yard drive to take the lead for good, this time with senior Josh Cantu catching a 23-yard scoring toss from Uballe.
Cantu, who was injured most of last season, tacked on his fourth touchdown on the night with a 55-yard TD sprint with 2:52 remaining to seal the deal.
Cantu finished with 143 yards on 23 carries, while Michael Fluegel added 95 yards on seven carries. Uballe finished 8-for-9 passing for 119 yards for Clarkston.
“There was nothing that we said really, we knew we needed to step up,” said Cantu, who had a career night for the Wolves. “We need this because we know we can come back (on teams). I thought (our offensive) line did a great job, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Clarkston scored on its first two drives, capped by runs of 1 and 5 yards by Cantu. The first drive was set up by a 73-yard punt return by Joshua Luther.
The Wolves coughed the ball up inside the Bloomfield Hills 10-yard-line twice in the second quarter, once on a fumble into the end zone and another drive coming up inches short on a fourth-and-1 situation.
“We could have built a big lead, but those two drives hurt us,” said Richardson. “But in the end, we stepped up and found a way to come back.”
Bloomfield Hills put together a nine-play, 80-yard drive which ended on a 6-yard run by Grant Fox to trim the deficit to 13-7 at the half.
Bloomfield Hills tied the game with 8:34 to play in the third stanza when Slazinski caught an 8-yard strike from Paddock.
The Ball State-bound Paddock finished the night 19-for-33 passing for 167 yards for Bloomfield Hills, while his favorite target, Slazinski, had 14 catches for 114 yards.
Bloomfield Hills finished 1-8 two years ago, dropped two divisions down last season to the OAA Blue Division and captured a league crown during a 9-0 regular season. This year the Black Hawks have proven they belong back up in the OAA Red Division.
“And that’s what I told them,” sighed Bloomfield Hills coach Dan Loria. “I told them that we can compete up here. We just lost to a better football team tonight. I am proud of the way we are playing right now.”