Low-Scoring Rematch Goes to Clarkston

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

November 25, 2017

DETROIT – The final score of the Clarkston-West Bloomfield Division 1 Final might cause many football purists to cringe and scoff in disbelief.

But Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson offered no apologies.

Richardson and his staff should be applauded for the job they did this season. Clarkston may not have been loaded with star power this season, but won its third Michigan High School Athletic Association title by defeating West Bloomfield, 3-2, in the Division 1 final on Saturday at Ford Field.

Clarkston (12-2) also won titles in 2013 and 2014. This was West Bloomfield’s first Finals appearance; the Lakers opened this season 0-2 but rebounded to finish 11-3.

The teams combined for the second-lowest points total in Finals history. In 1987, Ann Arbor Pioneer defeated Detroit Catholic Central, 3-0, in the Class A Final.

The teams also tied a Finals record for the most punts (14), and Clarkston tied the record for most punts (8) by one team.

Clarkston (12-2) finished third in the Oakland Activities Association Red this fall behind West Bloomfield and Rochester Adams, which tied for the division title. West Bloomfield soundly defeated Clarkston, 37-16, in the fourth game of the season, and the Lakers were a sensible pick to win again.

“That’s what these kids have been about all season,” Richardson said. “(They) find a way to win.

“We always talk about turning a negative into a positive. When we got beat by Adams (21-14 on Oct. 6), we changed our run game. When we were (5-2, after Week 8), I reamed the coaches. I thought we were doing a shoddy job. We changed our run game. We became a more power running team.”

Clarkston was never a team that wowed with statistics this season. The Wolves relied on their running game, a strong defense and a good kicking game.

Against West Bloomfield – a team with no fewer than 10 players who have either committed to or received a scholarship offer from a Division I college program – Richardson wanted to shorten the game and win the turnover battle.

In its first game against West Bloomfield, Clarkston committed four turnovers. On Saturday, the Wolves had a 3-0 edge.

“We knew they were going to blitz more,” West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy said. “Defensively, they we’re going to grind it. We had too many penalties (11 for 105 yards). Clarkston was going to shorten the game. Our special teams weren’t special today.”

The first half, and much of the second, was filled with mishaps.

Clarkston, on its second possession, gave up a safety when a fourth-down snap flew over the punter’s head and over the end line.

The Lakers failed to convert a first down on the ensuing possession and their punt went 19 yards, giving Clarkston the ball on West Bloomfield’s 33.

The Wolves did nothing with that gift and lost 10 yards in three plays, and when they punted it went just three yards.

West Bloomfield pieced together the best drive of the half as the Lakers gained three first downs and had a 1st-and-goal at the 5-yard line. But on the next play, Zach Scott grabbed an interception in the end zone.

The longest play of the half was a 35-yard pass from West Bloomfield quarterback Bryce Veasley to A.J. Abbott that gave the Lakers a first down at its 47. On the next play, Cody Hughes recovered a fumble for Clarkston.

Finally, with time running out in the first half, Wolves quarterback Nathan Uballe completed a 15-yard pass to Conner Heaton, and 13 yards was tacked onto that gain as West Bloomfield was called for roughing the passer. With six seconds left, Clarkston opted for a field goal try and Roemer converted from 30 yards out to give the Wolves a 3-2 halftime lead.

That was it for the scoring. Clarkston did its best to work the clock in the second half with its run game, and not make the big mistake.

Clarkston gained 117 yards, 84 on the ground. Its main ball carrier was junior Jacob Billette, who was in the lineup because Clarkston’s best running back, senior Josh Cantu, suffered a knee injury in the Semifinal and was unavailable. Billette rushed for 69 yards on 14 carries.

“We needed someone to run up the middle,” Richardson said. “Billette is a wrestler. He’s a tough kid. He was the answer.”

West Bloomfield had none for Clarkston’s defense. Veasley came in with nearly 3,300 yards and 24 touchdowns passing. On Saturday, he was 15 of 32 for 214 yards and two interceptions, and he was sacked twice.

“We didn’t make enough plays that needed to be made,” Veasley said. “Every time we made a big play, we had a penalty.”

Clarkston blanketed West Bloomfield’s receivers; all are expected to play at a major university. Michael Fluegel, who doubles as a running back and defensive back for Clarkston, said it was a challenge to go against such a talented group.

“All their receivers are really good,” he said. “You just have to make plays. You have to stay with them.”

For Richardson, this was the unlikeliest of titles. His other title teams had some of the state’s top players, like quarterback D.J. Zezula (Wayne State), who threw two touchdown passes in the 2013 Final and passed for one touchdown and ran for another in the 2014 championship game.

“This is very special,” Richardson said. “This team doesn’t have 5-star kids. We don’t have 4-star kids. We’re unselfish. The kids played with a chip on their shoulder. Nobody picked us to win today.”

Click for the full box score.

The MHSAA Playoffs are sponsored by the Michigan Army National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top) Clarkston senior Michael Fluegel (30) wraps up West Bloomfield’s Collin Heard during the Division 1 Final. (Middle) Lakers receiver AJ Abbott stretches for a grab over a defender.

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.