Clarkston's Caine Watlington is one of several high-quality options in the Wolves passing arsenal this fall. Watlington and his teammates captured a D1 regional crown Saturday with a 56-28 defeat of RH Adams. (Oakland Press file photo)
FOOTBALL: Pass-catching frenzy at Clarkston helps result in regional title in 2013 WITH TOUT VIDEOS
CLARKSTON – The receiving corps at Clarkston this season is as deep and talented as its’ ever been, if not more.
The Wolves’ wide outs are turning heads with their reliability, big-play ability and execution, hooking-up with deadly-accurate junior quarterback D.J. Zezula down the field and in the end zone at a factory-like efficiency and output.
On Saturday afternoon in Clarkston’s 56-28 drubbing of Rochester Adams in a Division 1 regional championship game in front of the Wolves’ home crowd, Zezula and his potent pass-catching troop combined for 250 yards and three touchdowns.
Purdue cornerback-commit Timmy Cason, in the midst of a breakout season on the offensive side of the ball and Caine Watlington, a speedy and elusive slotback, are the club’s No. 1 and No. 2 options in the passing attack. Both are spine-tingling playmakers.
Cason made five grabs for 125 yards and two touchdowns, including a 70-yard bomb up the left sideline in the first quarter Saturday. He has over 600 yards and seven touchdowns so far this year.
“I’ve always had the heart of a receiver inside me, I played that position growing up, but this is the first year that it’s really starting to show at the varsity level, so that makes me feel pretty good,” Cason said.
Watlington has scored 12 touchdowns this season and more than 30 catches..
The squad’s No. 3 split end, senior Shane Holler, is as consistent and sure-handed as they come and the prototypical “possession receiver.”
Juniors Joe Popp, Jack McKillop, Austin Egler, Merrick Canada and Cole Chewins (tight end) have all contributed to Clarkston’s aerial antics this fall as well, making opposing defenses have to worry just as much about the bottom half of the unit as much as they do about the top half.
“We all run precise routes and D.J. has been putting the ball right on the money all year long,” Holler said. “That’s given us an added dimension and allows us to be more balanced than last year. D.J. improved, we improved as receivers and now we’re rolling.”
With Popp and McKillop both going down with recent injuries, Egler was forced to carry a heavier load in the passing game than usual Saturday versus Adams.
Boy, did he respond.
Engler, who converted from running back this season, caught four balls for 95 yards and a back-breaking 6-yard touchdown from Zezula in the third quarter.
Coming into the game Engler hadn’t been thrilled with his performance lately.
“I had to step up, for myself and the team” he said. “I wanted to find some redemption today and I did. I’m happy I could help out and that we’re moving on.”
McKillop had been having a great year, splitting time between wide receiver and tight end, prior to breaking his leg in the Wolves regular-season finale. Popp, a spunky slot receiver, injured his ankle last week in the district finals.
At an agile 6-foot-8 inches tall, Chewins, one of the state's premiere college recruits in the Class of 2015, is reeking havoc on the defensive line this fall, in addition to holding down his tight end duties.
Canada, like his brother Chris (2011) before him, is a tough two-way threat, playing wide receiver on offense and in the secondary on defense.
Clarkston (11-1) collected repeat league and district championships this season. Last year, the Wolves were more defensive and run-oriented.
Longtime Clarkston head coach Kurt Richardson loves what he’s seeing from his ball club’s vertical assault.
“We have a tremendous amount of skill there,” he said. “D.J. is distributing the ball beautifully and the receivers are playing very well. The whole group is playing with a lot of confidence. They don’t care who gets the catches, just that we win. Today was Austin's turn."
Pausing for a second, Richardson went on to sum it up quite succinctly.
"It’s been a huge factor in us getting to where we are right now, no doubt.”
Yeah, that pretty much nails it, coach.