Article and photos courtesy of MIPrepzone
By Drew Ellis
HIGHLANDERS CLINCH 18th PLAYOFF BERTH
ROCHESTER >> It’s not often Clarkston’s football team gets beat up front, but Rochester Adams was able to do that on Friday night.
In a battle to stay atop the OAA Red, the Highlanders defense held the Wolves scoreless for most of the game and then held off a late Clarkston rally to pick up a 21-14 victory.
“We played really, really good defense for almost the entire game. That’s a really good football team that we kept contained for the vast majority of the game,” Adams coach Tony Patritto said. “Give (Clarkston) credit. There is no quit in that team. They are well coached and they are great kids. We have great respect for them.”
Friday’s game was a physical one, played in a dense fog and with steady rain in the second half. Adams (6-1, 5-1 OAA Red) set the tone early when Chase Kareta scored on the Highlanders opening possession. Kareta marched 51 yards, breaking tackles along the way to put Adams up 7-0.
That score would hold into the second half before Adams put together an 87-yard scoring drive that ended with a Kareta 4-yard score.
With a two-score lead, the Highlanders would come up with key turnovers. Vincent Gray had an interception on the following Clarkston possession and Stephen Roncelli would recover a fumble on the next Wolves’ drive. Roncelli followed up that turnover with a 9-yard touchdown run on the next play to make it 21-0 with 8:10 to play.
“Stephen Roncelli is one of the best high school football players in the state of Michigan,” Patritto said. “If you look at what he does on defense and offense, it’s kind of amazing. His pace, his strength, his passion is really important to our team. We have counted on him every game and he’s been there for us every game.”
Clarkston (5-2, 4-2) had to get desperate and start airing the ball out from there, which worked. Adams lost defensive back Cole Patritto in the fourth to an injury and the Wolves were able to take advantage. After Nathan Uballe led Clarkston down the field through the air, Joshua Cantu scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it 21-7.
The Wolves would then recover an onside kick and score 28 seconds later on a 11-yard pass from Uballe to Conor Donahue.
Clarkston would get a defensive stop and get the ball back, but was unable to pick up another first down and Adams held on for the win.
“If you ever think you’re going into a game favored against Clarkston, you’re nuts,” Patritto said. “Coach Richardson and his kids have played so hard for so many years. Every time we play them, it is like this. I am really happy we came out on the right side of it.”
The Highlanders can claim a share of the OAA Red title next week when they take on Troy Athens. A win would grant them at least a share of the title.
“This is not a championship game, but it is as close as it gets to one,” Patritto said of Friday’s win. “We are going to have to play really well against Troy Athens next week. If we win next week, then we can have the conversation about being co-champions. That would be an amazing accomplishment because I have so much respect for the OAA Red. Everybody is good and there are great players everywhere.”
The win also could propel Adams into the state rankings. The Highlanders were honorable mention in Division 1 last week while the Wolves were ranked No. 7
“I hope this game sends a message out to the state. Adams is for real,” Roncelli said. “I just love my coaches and my teammates so much. We won this together.”