Oak Park defense clamps down on Clarkston

Connor Muldowney
Special to The Detroit News

Oak Park — On a rain-soaked Friday, Oak Park defeated Clarkston, 14-7, in a physical Oakland Activities Association crossover game.

The result of the matchup between these two teams had no bearing on division races. Both Clarkston and Oak Park remain near the top of the Red and White divisions, respectively.

Still, serious playoff implications came with this OAA conference bout and it showed on the field.

The first half was dominated by defense. Oak Park held Clarkson’s offense to just nine total yards while senior quarterback Corey Graham gave his team the 7-0 lead right before half with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Keveon Clark.

Clarkston had minimal success running the ball in the second half as well, but coach Kurt Richardson wasn’t ready to blame poor weather conditions.

“It rained for (Oak Park), it rained for us,” Richardson said. “They were better offensively, they were better defensively and they were better with special teams. It’s pretty simple.”

Michael Fluegel coughed the ball up inside Oak Park’s 10-yard line late in the third, but redeemed himself with a 12-yard touchdown run with under a minute left in the third quarter to tie the game at 7.

Oak Park answered back with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Graham to Da’John Davis to take a 14-7 lead in the fourth, which ultimately proved to be the winner.

The Oak Park offense was picking up first downs consistently in the second half due to the elusiveness of running back Najee Trinity.

“Nobody can stop me, really,” Trinity said. “That goes for everyone. I don’t care if you’re Clarkston. Anybody.”

Trinity finished with 120 yards rushing on 17 carries for Oak Park (4-2, 3-1 OAA White). Graham completed 4-of-7 passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

“Najee is one of the best backs around,” Oak Park coach Greg Carter said. “He’s strong, he’s quick, you know, he has the total package. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s a really good kid and a great back.”

Fluegel finished with 30 rushing yards and the lone touchdown for Clarkston (4-2, 3-1 OAA Red).

“I’m proud of the guys,” Carter said after starting the season 0-2. “We knew that we were 0-3 last year and we said, ‘Hey, it’s not as bad as last year.’ We got it going and we’re going in the right direction.”

Clarkston has an important home matchup against Red Division-leading West Bloomfield next Friday and Oak Park will host Farmington Hills Harrison.

“I don’t think we’ve ever beat Clarkston before,” Carter said, “so it wasn’t tough to get up for this game.”

Connor Muldowney is a freelance writer.