Clarkston goes OT to win rematch against Southfield A&T

Evan Petzold
Special to The Detroit News
Clarkston sophomore quarterback Mike DePillo glances toward the Southfield A&T sideline in the first quarter on Friday.

Clarkston — The second matchup was much like the first.

But the first, in fact, was just 35 days ago. 

And this time the game went to overtime.

For the second time this season, Clarkston clashed with Southfield A&T. Two games between the same teams within six weeks — a rarity in high school football.

After losing 28-14 in Week 1, Clarkston topped A&T, 22-21, Friday night in the Oakland Athletics Association Red Division matchup. 

The overtime period began with a 10-yard touchdown pass on third down from Southfield A&T senior quarterback Anthony Romphf to senior wide receiver Christian Fitzpatrick in the corner of the end zone.

Once Clarkston (3-3, 3-1) got its chance in overtime, freshman running back Ethan Clark answered with a score of his own. A personal foul on the ensuing extra-point attempt moved the ball up to the half-yard line.

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Clarkston decided to go for the 2-point conversion, putting the game on the line. 

Clark punched the ball into the end zone. The Clarkston coaches, students, athletes and fans jumped for joy.

“It felt amazing,” Clark said after the game, still grasping the football in his right arm. “It shows how we play as a team. We just get wins.”

Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson said the decision to go for the win was a no-brainer.

“If we didn’t get that, we didn’t deserve to win,” Richardson said. “Our kids showed their character. It’s more than just a win.

“It’s the kind of win you can build on. The kids carry their confidence. A lot of good things happened. It’s just a great win for their emotions.”

Both teams went to the locker room with 14 points at halftime, just like in that late August battle.

Where the first half was an offensive shootout, the second half had everything to do with defense.

Romphf sought out junior receiver Robert Army down the field with 2:36 left, and he tossed up what would’ve been nearly a 40-yard completion.

Instead of hitting Army in the hands, Romphf’s threw the pass too far left and into the hands of the cornerback in coverage, Clarkston senior Datrius McKinney, at his team’s 44-yard line.

But the Southfield A&T defense held strong, forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball back with 1:18 remaining.

Clarkson had a chance to score as the clock ticked past eight minutes remaining, but a 30-yard field-goal attempt from junior Stephen Rusnak was tipped by Southfield A&T junior Abdul Jabaar to keep the score knotted at 14.

Southfield A&T senior quarterback Anthony Romphf receives the play call from his coaching staff in the first quarter on Friday.

Romphf finished with three total touchdowns and two interceptions, while the opposing quarterback, Clarkston sophomore Mike DePillo, went for one score. Unlike Romphf, DePillo didn’t turn the ball over.

Romphf flashed his arm early and often, starting on the team’s first drive. The Florida Atlantic commit tossed a 46-yard touchdown strike to Army to take a 7-0 lead with less than five minutes into the opening quarter.

Then, on the next offensive drive, Romphf did it again.

Lining up at the 16-yard line, Fitzpatrick gained an edge on his defender shortly after the ball was snapped. Once Romphf threw the ball, all Fitzpatrick had to do was put his hands above the head of his defender and make the catch.

Fitzpatrick, a Washington State commit, made it look easy.

“They could’ve blown us out,” Richardson said. “That first 10 minutes, I was like, ‘Holy shoot.’ It was a track meet. The kids kept scrapping, fighting and playing hard-nosed football.”

While Southfield A&T (3-3, 1-3) scored twice in two drives, Clarkston didn’t go away. Clarkston, aided by a 33-yard sneak by DePillo, put points on the board with 6:12 left in the second. The extra point was missed, and Southfield A&T held onto a 14-6 lead. 

Clarkston continued to swing the momentum in its direction as Romphf targeted his top receiver, Fitzpatrick, on a post route near midfield. Instead of Fitzpatrick, it was junior defensive back Alec Boan who intercepted the Southfield A&T quarterback.

As for that interception from Boan, it paid off. On fourth-and-1 from the opposing team’s 29-yard line, junior wide receiver Justin Buchmann carried the ball to the end zone. Missing an earlier point-after, Richardson signaled for his group to attempt a 2-point conversion.

DePillo rolled to the right side of the field and searched for an open receiver before tucking the ball and diving into the pylon.

The touchdown and 2-point conversion from Clarkston tied the score, 14-14, with 1:16 remaining in the second quarter.

In the Aug. 30 clash, Southfield A&T’s first win over Clarkston since 2016, Lee had two touchdowns. Romphf had one rushing and one passing score, as well. His touchdown through the air was an 8-yard completion to Fitzpatrick.

It also marked the Warriors’ first season-opening victory since 2012.

Shortly following a 14-14 tie at halftime, the Warriors came alive on the back of Romphf. The defense shut Clarkston out in the second half to secure a 28-14 victory.

That game did not count toward conference standings.

Clarkston boasted two of the best in the 2021 class.

One was junior lineman Garrett Dellinger, a four-star who specializes on the offensive line. He is ranked No. 121 in the nation, according to the 247Sports Composite, and has offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Alabama and Arizona State, among others.

In the season-opening loss to Southfield A&T, Clarkston was without Dellinger.

On the other side of the ball for Clarkston, it was 2021 four-star defensive tackle Rocco Spindler. He’s ranked No. 40 in the country with offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Arizona State, along with 11 others.

Southfield A&T showcased two senior prospects committed to Division I schools — three-star quarterback Romphf to Florida Atlantic and three-star wide receiver Fitzpatrick to Washington State. Junior three-star receiver Army, who holds three Big 10 offers, Kentucky, Missouri and 12 others, also played.

Army went down with an injury at the 1:16 mark of the second quarter on Clarkston’s 2-point conversion. He was down on the ground for nearly three minutes and did not return until the second half. 

A&T's junior running back, Lee, has an offer from Akron, while senior inside linebacker Cardiea Harris has offers from Alabama A&M and Morgan State.

Evan Petzold is a freelance writer.