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FOOTBALL: Zezula's three touchdown passes help Clarkston past Rochester

ROCHESTER HILLS — The Clarkston football team showcased its depth and improved passing attack Friday as it defeated Rochester, 34-13.

The Wolves were without one of their main offensive options in running back Ian Eriksen, but showed why they’re considered one of the top teams in the area Friday as quarterback D.J. Zezula and others stepped up and led Clarkston to a win that spoiled Rochester’s home opener.

Zezula threw three touchdowns to three different receivers, collecting two of those in the first half on 9-of-11 passing, as Clarkston jumped out to a 21-0 lead and showed it could move the ball through the air and using several different players.

“Ian’s a horse for us, but we’ve got some pretty good players other than him, and I thought they did a great job,” Clarkston head coach Kurt Richardson said. “D.J. was outstanding. He’s become such a great leader for us. He’s really matured into a great quarterback for us.”

Eriksen, the Wolves’ standout running back, missed the game with an injury, but Clarkston opened the game with a quick, four-play scoring drive that ended with Zezula hitting Jack McKillop for a 21-yard score just 1:44 into the game.

Clarkston used several different players to fill in on offense and succeeded in moving the ball throughout the course of the game.

While the Wolves’ offense clicked in the first half, the defense didn’t yield much to Rochester in the first half as the Falcons struggled to register big plays early on.

On the first play of the second quarter, Zezula connected with Caine Watlington for a 39-yard pass on third-down-and-13 for a big play, and Zezula found Shane Holler for a nine-yard touchdown strike with 7:16 left to finish the drive and make it 14-0.

Whenever the Wolves needed a big play, their offense stepped up and provided one.

Watlington converted a big one-yard touchdown run on fourth-down-and-1 later in the quarter to make it 21-0 Clarkston going into halftime.

Zezula had 125 yards passing at halftime and also posted runs of nine and 17 yards to lead Clarkston.

“We knew all week that Ian would be out,” Zezula said. “We know we had to get the passing game going, … and the wide receivers stepped up great.”

Rochester recovered a fumbled punt early in the second half and then got the big play it needed when quarterback Kevin Byrd hit Tyler Carten for a 21-yard gain to set up a new series of downs at the nine.

Three plays later, Byrd hit Demetrius Magee on third down to put the Falcons on the board and give them life as they closed to within 21-7.

Magee also caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Byrd with nine minutes left in the game as the pair connected on two touchdowns.

Clarkston responded after Rochester’s first score by driving down the field and scoring on a 32-yard pass play from Zezula to Watlington to make it 27-7.

Watlington rushed seven times for 34 yards and a touchdown in the first half and served as a good dual-threat as a runner and receiver.

Tim Cason returned an interception for a touchdown early in the fourth to make it 34-7 and finish Clarkston’s scoring.

Rochester (1-2, 0-2 OAA Red) made some big plays in the second half and moved the ball better, but couldn’t dig itself out of the 21-point hole it was in at halftime.

The Wolves (2-1, 2-0 OAA Red) have won back-to-back games and prepare for their home opener next week against Troy Athens, while Rochester will play West Bloomfield next week.

“We got a little bit better as the game went along,” Rochester head coach Erik Vernon said. “I think we got a little better this week from last week, so that’s all we ask from the kids.”

Last Updated: 9/13/2013 11:01:49 PM EST

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