Lake Orion defensive back Andrew Parker (left) knocks Clarkston running back Lukas Boman off his feet to stop a run during the district final game on Friday. Photo by Jim Newell.
Lake Orion finishes 10-1
By Jim Newell
ORION TWP. — The Lake Orion varsity football team’s perfect season came to an end on Friday when the Clarkston Wolves ended the Dragons’ undefeated season in the district final.
Clarkston (6-5) defeated Lake Orion 38-37 in the MHSAA District 5 final at Lake Orion High, raising the district championship trophy after rallying to cap off a come-from-behind win late in the fourth quarter when the Wolves were down two scores with only 3:47 left in the game.
Lake Orion and Clarkston have played each other more than each has played any other team, with Clarkston leading the series 34-24 heading into the game. The Dragons (10-1), ranked third in the state, had previously defeated the Wolves 42-21 Oct. 6 at Clarkston High School.
Clarkston head coach Justin Pintar knew it was going to be a tough clash, and the team made some adjustments heading into the game.
“I told the kids before the game that this was going to be one of those 12 round heavyweight battles. We felt good about some of the scheme things we were going to change up a little bit offensively, so we thought we might be able to do a better job than we did last game,” Pintar said. “Lake Orion, that’s a heck of a football team. They’re very well coached, that’s a very talented team. I think they’re as good as anybody in the state and that’s what I told our guys, is that if we can beat this team there’s no reason why we can’t beat anybody else out there,” Pintar said.
Just 40 seconds into the game, Lake Orion running back Billy Roberson fumbled the ball and Clarkston strong safety Lukas Boman recovered it on the Wolves’ 45-yard line.
That turnover resulted in the Wolves marching down the field over the next 4:47 minutes. With 5:32 to go in the first quarter, wide receiver Desman Stephens II ran the ball into the Dragons’ end zone to put the Wolves on the board first.
Roberson tied the game 7-7 on a rushing touchdown with 2:02 left in the first quarter, and quarterback T.R. Hill scored with 6:01 left in the second quarter to put the Dragons up 14-7. The first half ended with the Dragons up by seven.
Clarkston kicked a field goal at 8:14 of the third quarter, making 14-10, but the Dragons answered just over four minutes later with a field goal of their own, increasing their lead to 17-10.
Wolves’ quarterback Brady Collins tied the game at 17 with 8:54 to go in regulation on a 23-yard run to cap off a 70-yard, 12-play drive that ate up 5:51 on the clock.
The Dragons quickly dashed the Wolves’ comeback hopes when just two minutes later Roberson scored another rushing TD to put Lake Orion up 24-17. Andrew Parker then intercepted a Collins pass and scored with 6:36 left in the game, giving Lake Orion a 31-17 lead.
Collins redeemed himself with an 18-yard TD pass to Colin Kortman with 3:59 left in the game, and a successful two-point conversion made it 31-25.
Lake Orion countered on the kickoff when Roberson had a 71-yard return for a TD. The Dragons missed a two-point attempt but still held a 37-25 with 3:47 to go.
Grit and resilience had been the Wolves’ trademark throughout the game and they quickly countered with an 80-yard touchdown on a pass from Collins to tight end Brody Kozin just 13 seconds later, making it 37-32 after the extra point kick.
With 3:34 left in the game, the Wolves tried an onside kick and recovered the ball on the Dragons’ 47-yard line, but a penalty put the ball back on the Wolves’ own 43.
“When we got it down to six and they had that kick return for a touchdown we easily could have quit. A lot of teams would have, honestly, quit in that moment, in that situation, and we didn’t. We just kept grinding and guys made plays. Brody (Kosin) made the big catch and ran for a touchdown on the throw from Brady Collins. And we got the great onside kick,” Pintar said.
On fourth and 16 with 2:46 to go, Collins completed a pass to Stephens for a first down on the Dragons’ 29-yard line. The Dragon defense held off any Wolves attempt to drive further down field and pushed Clarkston back to the 41-yard line.
On 4th-and-22 with 1:55 left in the game Clarkston had no choice but to go for a first down. Collins completed a pass to Kosin, who pulled down the ball in double coverage, keeping the Wolves’ hopes alive with a first down.
With just 47.6 seconds left on the clock, Griffin Bowman ran the ball into the end zone to give the Wolves a 38-37 lead. A two-point conversion attempt after the touchdown failed.
The Dragons then began a last-minute drive up the field but the Lake Orion quarterback, under pressure from the Wolves’ defense, threw an interception with 22.9 seconds left in the game, sealing the victory for the Wolves, who took a knee on the next play.
Clarkston now travels to West Bloomfield (9-2) on Friday for the MHSAA Division 1 Regional 3 game. West Bloomfield beat Utica Eisenhower 24-6 on Friday.
The Wolves previously beat West Bloomfield 44-36 on Sept. 29. West Bloomfield’s only other loss was to Lake Orion on Sept. 15.