EAST LANSING − Jace Clarizio may only be a sophomore.
But he has wasted no time making his presence felt on the East Lansing football team.
He delivered in a season opener coming from behind the road win over Portage Central last month.
Clarizio then appeared once again on Friday in a high-stakes CAAC Blue matchup against DeWitt.
Clarizio was part of two big plays as No. 4-ranked Division 2 East Lansing earned a 36-30 win over No. 3 Division 3 DeWitt in their first game on their new artificial turf field in the Lynn C. Adams Stadium.
Clarizio had the go-ahead touchdown with his 27-yard rushing score with 6:01 left. He then had a game-sealing interception with 1:21 left for East Lansing, giving him a big boost early in the CAAC Blue career. The Trojans put themselves in position to end DeWitt’s streak of 16 consecutive seasons with league titles.
“This is a great victory,” said Clarizio. “We look forward to this game every year. This is the game we live for.
“This is a great victory.”
In addition to his go-ahead touchdown, Clarizio finished among the tackle leaders with 12 for East Lansing, which included two for loss.
Clarizio said coming out ahead in a big game was a confidence booster.
“I’ve always had a lot of confidence,” Clarizio said. “Ever since I was little I’ve been dreaming of moments like this. I love it.”
Seeing Clarizio make plays in the big moments doesn’t surprise teammates.
“Jace is a player,” said Evan Boyd, a senior wide receiver at East Lansing and a commitment at Central Michigan. “You give him the ball and he’s going to make a play. In fact, he did it against Portage (Centre) and he had that long run. He did it again tonight. Credit to him. Having that confidence as a sophomore is tough.” .
Clarizio’s big plays helped East Lansing hand DeWitt his second loss since joining the CAAC Blue in 2018. The only other loss in the league for the Panthers was a 21-2 setback to East Lansing in Week 5. of the 2019 season.
Friday also marked the first time DeWitt (2-2, 0-1) has lost consecutive games in the same season since 2005.
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Trojans buckle up defensively
Clarizio’s game-ending interception was part of a strong second-half defensive effort by the Trojans (4-0, 2-0).
East Lansing held DeWitt scoreless in the second half and got off to a 4-0 start for the third time since 2018.
One of the biggest stops came late in the third quarter when DeWitt knocked on the door behind star Bryce Kurncz. East Lansing stopped the Panthers twice inside the 3-yard line to regain possession. The Panthers had a 30-28 lead at the time and could have pushed their lead to two touchdowns for the first time in the contest.
“They attacked us pretty well the whole game, but coming out with a goal-line save was an important part of the game,” East Lansing coach Bill Feraco said.
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Boyd said some defensive changes contributed to the success in the second half.
“I think we were more disciplined,” Boyd said. “We’ve got some young DBs and they were a little surprised at first. As leaders, Kanye (Jackson) and I controlled them and guarded them and really focused and got saves.”
Home run scoring is key for East Lansing
DeWitt and East Lansing showed their ability to play big throughout the contest.
But it was the Trojans who made the most big plays and scored touchdowns to make the difference. All five of East Lansing’s touchdowns came on plays of 25 yards or more. Evan Boyd had touchdown receptions of 58 and 67 yards and Dorijan Jackson had a 50-yard touchdown catch. Charlie Baker had the other big play with his 25-yard touchdown catch from Dalen Adams, who finished with 261 receiving yards.
The only long touchdown play for DeWitt was Dylan Adkins’ 26-yard touchdown reception. DeWitt had three of his six scoring drives ended on field goals made by Brandon Soltis.
Plus:See the schedule and results of Week 4 high school football games in Greater Lansing
Contact Brian Calloway at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.