Rochester Adams Highlanders 21
Clarkston Wolves 14
Clarkston started with the ball on their 41. On the opening snap, LB Stephen Roncelli shot through the line and made first contact with the Wolves halfback two yards behind the line of scrimmage then helped LB Ryan Rifenberg clean up the 5 yard tackle for loss. Roncelli made the stop on the second play after a 3 yard gain to set up 3rd and long. Wolves QB Nate Uballe attempted to pass, but big Cole Mitchell applied pressure up the middle and CB Cole Patritto had tight coverage on the receiver to force the incompletion. Three and out opening drive for Clarkston.
The Highlanders QB Zach Soldan handed it to FB Roncelli up the middle for 3 yards on first down from the Adams 30. On second down, Roncelli got it again and shot through a void cleared by tackle Justin Leonard. Roncelli ran over a Clarkston linebacker and it took 4 defenders to get him down after a 14 yard burst to the 46. Patritto was cut down after a 3 yard gain off left tackle to make it 2nd-and-7. Then RB Chase Kareta got the handoff around the right side. He cut up between blocks by Mitchell and Leonard and hit the after-burners to split the defense. He made two defensive backs miss and he was gone. 51 yards through the fog and into the south end zone to start homecoming night properly. Ben Patton put the extra point through the goalposts, and it was quickly 7-0 Highlanders.
The Wolves QB Nate Uballe took the first down shotgun snap from the Clarkston 29 and handed to their workhorse RB, Josh Cantu, who was able to get around the right side of the defense for 15 yards before CB Vincent Gray brought him down with help from CB Ben Luci. Then LB Chase Kareta brought down Cantu with help from Rifenberg after 2 yards. Cantu got it again on second down, but Roncelli met him in the backfield for a 1 yard TFL. An illegal motion penalty moved them back 5 more to set up 3rd-and-14. Kareta picked up the tight end on a crossing route and the pass attempt was incomplete. Again, the Adams defensive held strong, this time four and out, and the Wolves punted it away.
Soldan lined the Highlanders up at their 32 and handed to Roncelli off left tackle. The left side of the Highlander line – center Calin Bowers, guard Jarred McPherson, and tackle Hunter Drobnich – completely caved in their side of the Clarkston defense. Roncelli ran through a tackle and rolled for 15 more up to the 47. After Soldan was stopped for no gain on first down, he gave it to Patritto who cut behind a Drobnich block for 6 into Clarkston territory. But Soldan got wrapped up on an option-left that lost two on 3rd down, and he quick punted on 4th and 4.
Clarkston took over on their 20, but Adams jumped offsides to make it 1st-and-5 from the 25. Cantu was wrapped up by DT Logan Kania and LB Cameron Kelly after only a yard. On 3rd-and-4 Cantu found room around the left side and carried for the biggest play of the night for the Wolves, 37 yards down to the Adams 37. That’s were the Highlanders D stepped up again. First Cole Mitchell stormed into the backfield to take down Cantu for a 3 yard TFL at the 40. Then Rifenberg tackled Cantu after 3 to make it 3rd-and-10. They tried a screen left but it was covered well by Luci, but it was over Cantu’s head and Clarkston punted.
Adams started at their 13. Soldan looked for Kareta on an out route, incomplete. Patritto carried for 3 out to the 16 and they switched ends.
Soldan missed Gray on a slant route, and punter Carter Ferris came on to punt it.
Clarkston started at the Adams 46 on a short field, but the vaunted Highlander defense didn’t seem to mind. Roncelli was again in the Clarkston backfield and he dropped the ball carrier for a loss of 4; he got help from Cameron Kelly. Uballe completed it to WR Tieler Houston for 8 yards; Ben Luci made the tackle. On third down, he looked for Houston again, but Vincent Gray batted it down, and Clarkson was three and out again.
Drobnich and McPherson created an opening for Patritto to gain 5 on first down out to the 24, then Roncelli gained 2 up the middle. Leonard, Mitchell, and Roncelli provided lead blocks for Kareta who sliced for 3 more to move the chains to the 29. Soldan lost one on option-right to make it 2nd-and-11. Roncelli had to evade a tackler in the backfield to salvage no gain. On third and long, Soldan looked to Patritto on a short out, but it was well covered, and Ferris came on to punt again.
Ferris got a off a nice 49 yard punt, driving Clarkston back to their 23. Rifenberg and Kelly stopped the first down carry for no gain. Uballe tried to go deep for Houston down the right sideline, but Gray ran stride for stride and the pass was long. They tried to throw it left on third down, but Patritto and Luci both had perfect coverage and it was incomplete. For the third time in the half, the Wolves went three and out.
Adams started at midfield. On first down it was Kareta finding room again around right tackle. Bowers, Mitchell, Leonard, Roncelli, and Gray all threw blocks to spring him, and Kareta ripped the Wolves for 15 down to the 35. They tried the same play, but it was stopped for no gain. Soldan threw it complete to Cole Patritto to gain 6 to make it 3rd-and-4. Patritto took it behind the devastating down block from big Hunter Drobnich for 5 yards to move the chains down to the 24. Kareta carried for a yard before Soldan picked up 5 on a QB draw. On third down Soldan was dropped for a two yard loss by 6’4” 250lb freshman Rocco Spindler. With Justin Leonard lined up across from him all game, this would be the only time the two-way standout’s name would called all night. Ben Patton came on for a field goal attempt, but his 37 yard effort was blocked, and it would remain 7-0.
Cantu took the first down handoff from their 20 and gained 9 up the middle before Roncelli knocked him down. Kelly made the stop on the next play after a 4 yard gain netted a first down. Luci provided good one on one coverage of the first down incompletion. On second down, Uballe rolled right and threw incomplete; CB Nico Jackson had coverage on the comeback route. Mitchell stopped the next play, a QB keeper, after 4 yards, forcing the Wolves punter to apply his craft once again. That would be the last play of the half dominated by the Highlander defense. Clarkston only ran 23 plays and punted 6 times in 6 first half possessions.
The Highlanders got the first possession of the second half, starting from their 18. Soldan was dropped for a two yard loss on first down, then Patritto gained the two back. On third down, Soldan rolled left and was sacked by LB Gino Paese.
Carter Ferris had to punt out of the Highlander north end zone and Clarkston returned it to the Adams 42 to set them up on a short field. Again, the Highlander defense was up to the task. Rifenberg stepped in front of Cantu and brought him down after 3. Then Roncelli caught Cantu in the backfield trying to go right, and rudely planted him at the 43 for a 4 yard loss. The 3rd down pass was incomplete to complete the 4th three and out for the Highlander defense. Clarkston punted for the 7th time.
Soldan took the first down snap from Adams 13 to begin a 9 play 87 yard southward Highlander march. Roncelli got it on the quick trap up the middle on the first play. Bowers, McPherson, and Mitchell threw great blocks; Roncelli banged his way up the middle for 17 yards before three Wolves were able to bring him down at the 30. Zach Soldan ran read-option right and gained 8 behind blocks from Bowers, Mitchell, Leonard, Patritto, and Kareta. It was Soldan again following Leonard and Roncelli for first down yardage as he kept it for 3 more out to the 41. Patritto got stopped after 1 on the jet sweep left. Then the slippery Kareta zipped between the down block of Leonard and the kickout block by Patritto, ran through a tackle, and was pulled down after a pickup of 7. On 3rd-and-2, Roncelli bulled into the center of the line behind the interior three of McPherson, Bowers, and Mitchell for 6 yards to move the chains down into Clarkston territory. Roncelli ground for 3 more on first down to the 40. Roncelli got it again the next play on the quick trap right. Bowers, McPherson, Mitchell, and Leonard again put on a blocking clinic as they graded the defense out of the way. Roncelli burst down the Highlander sideline for 38 yards before he was knocked out of bounds at the 2 yard line. It was Kareta following Roncelli’s seal block into the Highlander corner of the south end zone on the very next play, and after the Patton extra point, it was a 14-0.
Clarkston returned the kickoff to the 37. The Highlander defense again went to work. They tried to throw a quick screen right to Cantu, but Rifenberg beat the block and tackled him for no gain. On second down Vincent Gray made a pretty one-handed interception on an overthrown slant pattern. A two and out this time. Gray was tackled at the Wolves 48 after a short return.
Zach Soldan ran read-option right for 8 yards behind a bulldozing Justin Leonard. Roncelli was stopped after yard up the middle. On 3rd-and-1, Kareta got it and followed Leonard’s block for 5 more to move the chains to the 35. Soldan gained 5 on read-option right to the 30 before a false start moved them back to the 35. Roncelli again burst up the middle and carved out 9 to make it 3rd-and-1. He got the rock again, and he moved the chains again, down to the 25. Patritto lost 2 on the final play of the quarter.
Kareta carried it for 7 to set up 3rd and 5 from the 20. Behind blocks of Bowers and Mitchell, Roncelli rumbled up the middle. Big Hunter Drobnich got into the second level to hammer a linebacker and Roncelli had 5 yards and another Highlander first down. Kareta got stopped after 1 before Adams made their first mistake of the night. Soldan and Roncelli didn’t execute the handoff on the read-option and they put it on the ground. Clarkston recovered at the 14.
The Highlander defense was not amused. The first down jet sweep right was destroyed by Cole Mitchell as he ran down the ball carrier in the backfield for a 4 yard TFL. Then it was Cameron Kelly’s turn, he busted another ball carrier behind the line for a 1 yard TFL back to the 10. Then Cantu coughed it up, Roncelli fell on it, and the Highlander defense again stepped up, this unorthodox three and out was their 5th of the game.
Soldan pitched it Roncelli going left and he followed blocks of Kareta and Patritto on the edge into the Highlander corner of the North end zone for the 9 yard TD run. Patton was automatic as usual. 21-0 Highlanders and the mood in the Highlander stands was becoming festive.
Most teams would roll over at this point, but Clarkston showed why they are quite a bit better than most teams. They were far from done. They found a receiver an a go pattern for 28 yards down the left side. Patritto made the tackle at the Highlander 40. They threw incomplete on first down before Roncelli got another TFL, this time for minus 2 with help from Rifenberg. On third and long they again connected, this time for 36 down to the 4 after a pick and wheel route left the Adams defender chasing the play from behind. 1st and goal at the 4. Rifenberg stopped Cantu for a two yards before he carried it across on the next play to get Clarkston on the board. The extra point was good, and it was 21-7.
Clarkson executed a perfect onside kick, and Adams didn’t defend it well. Clarkston recovered it way too easily and they were in business again at the Highlander 45. They threw incomplete on first down and second down, but Adams was called for pass interference to move it down to the 30. Then they completed a nice slant pattern to wideout Conor Donahue to give them first down at the 11. They threw incomplete as Gray defended a pass before Uballe found the motion man Donahue on an out route for the 9 yard score, and it was 21-14 after the PAT. Momentum had swung to Clarkson all of a sudden in only two possessions. This after Adams had totally dominated the whole game up to that point.
With 5 minutes left in the game, Clarkston elected to kick the ball deep and let their defense try to get the ball back. Roncelli got it on a pitch left and picked up 3 yards. Then Kareta got it on a pitch right and picked up 6. On 3rd-and-1, Kareta got tripped up at the line and was stopped for no gain. 4th-and-1 from their own 39, and the Highlanders didn’t hesitate. They line up to go, but jumped. The costly false start set them back 5, and Clarkston got the hold they needed. Carter Ferris was called on again to punt it back to Clarkston.
The Wolves got a good return to the Highlander 35 to set them up on a short field looking for the tying score. It was time for the Adams defense to step up and win the game. They were more than down for it. The first down pass was incomplete. The fog was so thick you could barely see players on the opposite side of the field, and a light rain began falling through the mist. The second down pass was knocked down by Ben Luci, who almost had himself a pick-six. On 3rd-and-10 Roncelli almost got the sack, but Uballe spun out of it and threw incomplete. 4th-and-10. Roncelli brought the heat again with a big hit on the QB as he released, and the ball went long over Donahue who was well covered by Kareta. The Highlander defense held.
Adams took over on downs, still 3 and change left to play. Kareta on the pitch right followed blocks by Gray, Roncelli, Leonard, and Reed Vogt. Kareta reeled off 13 yards and a first down up to the 48. Karata got stopped for no gain on the next play. Clarkston called timeout. Roncelli was stopped for a yard to make it 3rd-and-9 from the 49, Clarkston called another timeout. Roncelli bulled for 2 more and the Wolves called their last timeout. Soldan executed the quick punt on 4th down, and it was a beauty. Out of bounds at the Wolves 2 yard line.
Now with only a buck and change left on the clock, the Highlander defense would be called upon to close out the game. First Rifenberg knocked Cantu off his feet after 3 with help from Mitchell. Then Uballe scrambled left; Rifenberg and Roncelli chased him out of bounds after a first down pickup out to the 15. Then they hit Donahue for a short gain, but he was spun down by Reese Collins after a only a yard. They tried to go deep down the right side; incomplete with Nico Jackson on coverage. They fumbled the next shotgun snap and had to fall on it to set up 4th-and-10. Uballe threw it to Cantu out of the backfield, Rifenberg was the first to hit him and bounce him back, then Kareta finished him off 2 yards short of the first down. Again, the Highlanders defense again did their job, closing out a sweet 21-14 victory against their biggest rival on homecoming night, the last regular season home game for this senior class. Another unforgettable night of Highlander football.