BY DAN STICKRADT
WEB AND CONTENT EDITOR
CLARKSTON, Mich. — On paper, this was considered one of the years that Clarkston would be one of the favorites.
Due not some unseen events that has caused several key players to miss games, the regular season didn’t pan out exactly how the Wolves had envisiion in the preseason.
Clarkston fifth-year coach Ian Jones has had to shuffle the lineup time and time again. The Wolves still finished the regular season with a respectable 13-4-2 record.
“We had some injuries,” noted Jones. “And not just injuries but injuries to key players.”
Still the Wolves were one of five schools from the OAA-Red to be ranked the final five weeks of the regular season – Troy, Troy Athens, Berkely, Clarkston and Rochester Adams – and one of four to be ranked the entire campaign. Entering the postseason, Troy (No. 1), Troy Athens (No. 5), Clarkston (No. 6), Berkley (No. 7) and Rochester Adams (No. 8) gave the OAA-Red five of the top eight slots in the coaches top-15 rankings in Division 1.
Many of the team’s difficulties came in the first month of the campaign.
First, senior goalkeeper Robert Wright, All-State Honorable Mention last season in his first year as a starter, was hurt over the summer. He wound up missing around 90 percent of the regular season. Backup junior goalkeeper Benjamin Mulcher was trying to come back from a knee injury but had his fair of mobility struggles and was quickly sidelined again.
Senior D/M Connor Laming, a fourth-year varsity veteran and a college recruit as a field player, had some previous goaltending experience back in middle school and was shuffled between the pipes to help stable the position until Wright’s return. There were several other players in and out of the lineup, especially in the first month of the season, which again forced Jones to play musical chairs with his lineup almost every game.
“We had to move some players around. Thankfully, Connor had some experience playing goalkeeper in club a few years ago,” noted Jones. “We had to move some other guys around with Connor in goal but we still have several good players to be ab le to do so.”
Early in the season, the Wolves dropped two games against then-No. 1 Novi Detroit Catholic Central (4-1 at the Balconi Invitational and 5-1 in a non-conference game). Still, Clarkston forged through a 9-2-2 record before a rain-shortened, 1-0 loss to youthful Rochester on Sept. 20 knocked them down the standings slightly. Clarkston still won the Lapeer Lightning Cup with a 3-0-0 record in late August with a 11-0 scoring edge and was in every game during September and October.
After Labor Day weekend, junior M/F Sabalian ‘Sebi” Roy joined the roster. He spent the last two years training with Cincinnati FC in the MLS Next Academy ranks but moved back to Clarkston along with his family. His dad is Travis Roy, the 1991 Mr. Soccer winner for Livonia Stevenson and eventual All-American for the University of Wisconsin. Sebi Roy’s arrival helped out on the offensive end immensely.
At the beginning of October, the aforementioned Wright re-joined the lineup, which allowed Laming to slide to the back line or in the midfield. Clarkston ended up in fourth place in the final OAA Red Division standings at 3-2-2, good for 11 points.
Senior M/F Richie Ludwig has been a star on soccer scene for years. The fourth-year starter was the sole junior on the All-State Dream Team last year and has emerged as one of the leading candidates for Mr. Soccer this year. The Michigan State commit is fast approaching 20 goals and 20 assists and could eclipse those marks if the Wolves make a deep run in Division 1.
Junior M/F Robert Wisser also came in with high club-level pedigree, earning multiple postseason honors for his Nationals club team over the summer. His father Rob Wisser Sr. was a former All-State First Team player for Richland Gull Lake in the early 1990s and later played for Oakland University in the mid-90s.
Sophomore newcomer Brayden Cooper, who played club ball last fall, has joined the crew up top at forward. His freshman brother Cole Cooper plays in the midfield and is considered one of the top ninth-graders in the entire state. Senior midfielders Bradley Ratliff and Evan Dula have also been a consistent performer the last two years.
Having Ludwig, Roy, Wisser and both Cooper brothers in the attack has created a lethal combination against most teams. Clarkston the opposition 58-27 in the regular season and remained ranked in the top 10 in Division 1 all season in the top 15 coaches poll despite the revolving door of players.
“We really have 14 guys who can start at any time. I think our injuries allowed us to get a lot of guys some playing time and that made us deeper,” offered Jones, who is also Director of Coaching for the Pontiac-based Liverpool Soccer Club which feeds a wide variety of schools in Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Genesee counties.
In the backfield, senior Logan Sloan anchors at center back and Jones calls him Mr. Consistency.” Junior Brendan Gerard and senior Alexander Moscone have also filled in nicely.
Two sophomores that are climbing the ranks are midfielder Ty Niemi, who played in the MLS Next circles last season, and defenseman Brady Melcher. Overall, there are 14 seniors, nine juniors, two sophomores and the lone freshman on the Wolves’ roster. Dominic Collins, Nathan Hutchinson, Noah Martin, Sam Modrzynski, Kurtis Niemi, Sean Trador and Theo Walker are the other seniors for Clarkston.
Even with their goalkeeping and defensive woes created by the injuries, the Wolves still managed to record eight shutouts in the regular season. Clarkston also posted a 3-3-2 record against schools that were ranked in the top 15 in Division 1 and Division 2 throughout the regular season. The only losses were to Catholic Central (twice), OAA-Red champion Troy and to Rochester, and that game lasted only 40 minutes and called official due to thunderstorms. The draws came against top-10 teams and fellow OAA-Red opponents Rochester Adams and Troy Athens.
The Wolves, ranked sixth in Division 1 entering the postseason, are the No. 1 seed in their district, which they host. Grand Blanc, Oxford, Davison, Lapeer, Flushing and Swartz Creek are the teams standing in Clarkston’s way of a fourth district in five years and 12th overall district championship.
Clarkston has only won a single regional crown in school history, that coming in 2007 when the Wolves finished as the state runner-up in Division 1. The Wolves are 1-4 all-time in regional titles games.
“We feel that now that we have all of the pieces back and some depth we have the talent to make a run,” said Jones, whose squad reached the regional finals last season before bowing out to Northville 1-0. “We have a lot of talent on this team and were healthy. We hope to win a district and get another shot at a regional championship.”
CLARKSTON’S BOYS SOCCER SUCCESS TIMELINE:
LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIPS (Greater Oakland Activities League; OAA Division I/Red Division; OAA Division II) – Not available
DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIPS – 1990, 1992, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2007, 2013, 2014, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022
REGIONAL SEMIFINALISTS – 1990, 1997, 1998, 2013, 2018, 2019
REGIONAL RUNNER-UP – 1992, 2001, 2014, 2021
REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS – 2007
FINAL FOUR – 2007
STATE FINALS APPEARANCES – 2007
STATE RUNNER-UP – 2007