By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Sports Writer
During their second consecutive home game, the Oxford Wildcats fell behind the Clarkston Wolves by two scores at halftime and ran out of time in their comeback effort as the Wolves held on for a 33-28 win at Wildcat Stadium on Friday, Sept. 27.
Gifting Clarkston with excellent field position by sending the opening kickoff out of bounds, the Wolves engineered an efficient drive to get on the board first, ending in a 15-yard touchdown run by senior Devin Parkison.
With the first of his three touchdowns of the evening, Oxford senior Matt Pullman tied the game at seven with a 19-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.
After the Wolves added two more touchdowns in the second quarter, it looked like sophomore quarterback Mike DePillo may have put the game out of reach with a one-yard rushing score to extend the lead to 27-7 with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter.
The Wildcats, however, would not go down without a fight. Taking the handoff on a jet sweep, senior Drew Carpenter caught the Clarkston defense guessing and found classmate Nathan Call for a 28-yard touchdown pass, cutting the Wolves’ lead to 27-14 with 55 seconds left in the third.
Narrowly averting disaster after Call recovered Pullman’s fumble on Clarkston’s 20-yard line with seven minutes left in the game, Pullman added his second score of the evening to close the gap to six, 27-21.
Getting the lead back to two scores, freshman Ethan Clark’s 22-yard run gave Clarkston a 33-21 lead with 4:08 to play. Trying to up the lead to 14 points, Clarkston head coach Kurt Richardson elected to attempt a two-point conversion, which was unsuccessful.
Pullman’s final touchdown of the night, a three-yard run, got the score to 33-28 with 2:10 left. Attempting to put the game away, the Wolves went for it on fourth down and three from the Oxford 43-yard line. Coming up with a stop when they needed it most, the Oxford defense got the football back for their offense with 23 seconds to play.
Struggling to move down the field due to three false start penalties in the final 23 seconds, the Oxford offense was given one untimed down after a helmet-to-helmet hit on sophomore quarterback Brady Carpenter as time expired.
Filling in for his younger brother, Drew Carpenter’s pass was intercepted by Clarkston junior Alec Boan to seal the victory.
“I liked our enthusiasm, especially in the second half,” said Head Coach Bud Rowley.
“We played better on both sides of the football, but still have a lot of work to do.”
One week after being shutout, 35-0, by Lake Orion, Oxford delivered a much more spirited performance. A noticeable step in the right direction, the Wildcats were a few penalties and chunk plays away from completing a memorable comeback.
“We can’t give up 400-plus yards,” Rowley accurately stated. “300-plus of those were on the ground, tough to win games allowing that much rushing yardage.”
While Oxford won the total yardage battle, 426-423, the Wolves outgained the Wildcats on the ground, 302-252. Led by Clark’s 177 rushing yards, Clarkston averaged 7.9 yards per carry.
For their part, the Wildcats ran the football effectively, too. In the course of racking up his three touchdowns, Pullman totaled 172 yards on 24 attempts (7.2 YPC). Drew Carpenter was quieter on the ground than usual, but junior Melvin Eckles stepped up, registering 39 yards on six rushes (6.5 YPC).
Penalized 14 times, the Wildcats were clipped for 85 yards of penalties. Clarkston was flagged five times for 45 yards.
“He (Pullman) had a great game, but our offensive linemen are the ones allowing those guys to pick up yards,” Rowley said of Pullman and his team’s rushing attack.
“I thought our line played better. We have to keep that improvement going (against) Stoney Creek, our homecoming game.”
Falling to 1-4 overall, the Wildcats are now 1-3 in OAA play, three games behind the first-place West Bloomfield Lakers.
Kickoff of the Clarkston game was moved up to 6 p.m. due to the threat of inclement weather. The Oct. 4 homecoming game against Stoney Creek will return to the traditional 7 p.m. start time.