Clarkston showed its skill and toughness Friday night to avenge the tough loss Romeo handed them in last year's playoffs.
Romeo made short work of Clarkston last year with a 38-7 win, but Clarkston keyed all week on how disappointing and embarassing it was to lose so badly. They wanted the win more and it showed from the first snap.
"I reall think the key of it was the turnovers. They turned the ball over three or four times, and we didn't at all," Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson said. "We came out and laid down last year. They embarassed us and I just talked to the seniors that went through last year and don't let it happen again."
"We talked about all week what it felt like coming off the field after we got our [butts] kicked last year," senior quarterback Tyler Scarlett said.
The Wolves (11-0) were poised against a very talented Romeo (8-3) team throughout the game. Scarlett controlled the tempo and threw three touchdown passes to lead Clarkston to a 21-3 victory.
Scarlett went 13-for-20 for 167 yards as well as 83 yards rushing. In the first half Scarlett only missed four passes out of 12 tries, three of which were in the final minute of the half trying for one last score before the time expired.
"He's been a leader all year long, he makes big plays for us. I know he made big plays when we needed them, him and Dakota," Richardson said.
Dakota Bender teamed up with Scarlett as per Clarkston's usual scoring punch. After a rocky first quarter for Bender, he recovered nicely and ran 14 times for 88 yards, including a 35-yard run on Clarkston's final possession. Romeo seemed to have Clarkston's run game stopped up in the first half, limiting both Scarlett and Bender to a combined 66 yards on the ground.
But thanks to Scarlett's precision passing, the Wolves didn't need to rely on their runningbacks as much as they did their receivers. The passing game was Clarkston's weapon of choice and Romeo couldn't adjust quick enough to stop Scarlett until the damage was done. Senior wide receiver Dustin Gamble played well on both ends for the Wolves, recovering a fumble, picking off an interception on a pass heading for the end zone late in the game, and scoring on a 15-yard pass in the first quarter.
Romeo tried their best to get the offense jump-started but Clarkston's defense contained All-State runningback Ben Brown and kept Romeo's quarterback Jacob Alcini from gaining any momentum on the passing game. In the first half, the Bulldogs only managed two first downs and 58 yards offensively. Compared with last year's game, the Bulldogs had a 31-0 lead at halftime with Brown leading the way.
Clarkston's first possession set the tone for the Wolves with Scarlett landing a 20-yard pass and 40-yard touchdown pass to senior Derek Booker to put them up 7-0 with just over five minutes played. Scarlett carried and passed the ball well on their next possession, resulting in a second touchdown seven plays later on a 15-yard pass to Gamble.
Romeo's third try offensively finally put them on the board after they were forced to kick at 41-yard field goal with 6:04 left in the first half. The Bulldogs had a fourth-and-one but a 5-yard illegal shift penalty put them at fourth-and-six and forced the kicking team on the field. The score would remain 14-3 to start the third quarter.
Clarkston began running the ball, which got them near midfield, but couldn't quite get the ball deep and were forced to punt. But after the ball hit one of Romeo's receivers, Clarkston junior Brian Burger recovered the ball on Romeo's 38-yard line. The Wolves offense began to click again and they scored on a 4-yard pass to Bender with 6:51 left in the third.
The game remained 21-3, with Romeo's only threatening drive of the game ending with Gamble picking off an interception in the end zone. Clarkston moved the ball back down the field and downed the ball to run out the clock.
Clarkston will face Macomb Dakota (9-2) next week at home, the second consecutive opponent the Wolves will meet from the Macomb Area Conference Red Division-home to the number one ranked team in the state Sterling Heights Stevenson. Dakota won their playoff game 28-10 against Utica Eisenhower.