Tristan Mattson showed just how valuable a kicker could be in Clarkston’s season-opener last Friday night at Michigan Stadium.
Mattson, a senior, kicked two field goals (21, 23 yards) and then made a pair of big plays late to help defending Division 1 state champion Clarkston escape with a 12-9 victory over Grandville.
With Clarkston facing a fourth down at its own 33 with just over three minutes left, the ball sailed over Mattson’s head as he was getting set to punt. Then, he made a brilliant play when he scooped the ball up at the 2 – with a pair of Grandville players on his heels – and shoved the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Mattson wasn’t done there. He had to kick off from his own 20 and blasted the ball over the Grandville kick returner’s head, pinning Grandville deep in its own territory.
Clarkston 32nd-year head coach Kurt Richardson knows he has been blessed with outstanding kickers over the years, especially this decade when Clarkston has won three state championships (2013, 2014, 2017).
Alex Kessman is kicking for Pittsburgh, tying a Pitt school record with a 56-yard field goal at Syracuse while also breaking the Carrier Dome record last season. Shane Hynes, a grad transfer from Kent State, is battling it out with Parker White for the starting job at South Carolina this season.
And don’t forget Jermaine Roemer, who kicked the winning 30-yard field goal in Clarkston’s 3-2 state title game win over West Bloomfield last November at Ford Field.
Mattson certainly won’t forget the title game. After all, it was Mattson who kicked the ball from Clarkston’s own 20 after West Bloomfield took a 2-0 lead on a safety in the opening quarter and booted the ball into the end zone.
On his heady play Thursday night at the Big House, Mattson said: “Once I saw that it went over my head, it was like muscle memory came right in and I just picked up the ball and threw it out of the end zone. I run a pretty fast 40, can run a 4.6, just grabbed it and tossed it, feeling two points are better than giving up six.”
No doubt, especially since Clarkston was holding a 12-7 lead before the bad snap.
Mattson was just as proud of his ensuing kickoff.
“I did the same thing back at Ford Field after West Bloomfield got the safety,” said Mattson. “It’s just a lot of fun kicking off because I know I can just boot the ball as hard as I can.”
Mattson and No. 8 Clarkston will host to No. 7 West Bloomfield in the title game rematch Friday night.
Richardson thinks Mattson will follow Kessman, Hynes and Roemer to the college ranks next year. Mattson took a visit to Buffalo earlier this month.
“He’s a kid who works hard and he’ll end up going somewhere in DI kicking,” Richardson said. “He’s right up there with the top kickers that we’ve had here. We’ve had a great run of kickers.”
Richardson pointed out the importance of having a multi-talented kicker such as Mattson, who has the ability to kick 50-yard field goals.
“He can flip field position in a hurry,” Richardson said. “You also don’t have to worry about a runback since he consistently kicks it in the end zone. He’s very important to our team.”