By DOUG DONNELLY
CLINTON — The Whiteford Bobcats had a bit of a delay in celebrating its second consecutive Tri-County Conference championship, but it was worth the wait.
Whiteford defeated Clinton 52-21 – the first win ever for the Bobcats at Clinton – and clinched at least a share of the TCC title. It’s the first time Whiteford has ever won back-to-back TCC championships.
“It’s unprecedented,” Bobcat coach Jason Mensing said. “It’s never happened before. Anytime you can do something that has never been done, it speaks volumes for the level of talent on the field and the character of the kids.”
The Bobcats had to delay its celebration as Clinton officials wouldn’t allow Bobcat fans to cross the track and go onto the field of play after the game, something that has become sort of a tradition for Whiteford and other schools in the area. Instead, the Bobcat players boarded the bus and drove to Whiteford parking lot to meet the fans in the parking lot for hugs and photographs with the league champs.
On the field, Whiteford beat Clinton for a second straight year behind an offense that rolled up 352 yards rushing and held the ball for more than 32 minutes. Logan Murphy rushed for 150 yards and scored four times to lead the Bobcat offense. In doing so, he went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Thomas Eitniear grabbed another Bobcat record, passing for 54 yards on the night to increase his career passing yard total to a Whiteford record 2,857 yards.
Zach Bertz rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown, Ty Eitniear returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score and Bradyn Clark-Gilmore caught a 29-yard TD pass from Thomas Eitniear.
Whiteford grabbed the early 6-0 lead on Murphy’s first touchdown, which came on the 12th play of the opening possession of the game. Clinton came back and scored on a 21-yard pass from Clark Nelson to Michael Sprau less than 30 seconds later and took the lead on a successful extra point. On the ensuing kickoff, however, Ty Eitniear returned it for a touchdown, giving the Bobcats a lead it wouldn’t give up the rest of the game.
“We are pretty explosive offensively right now and that certainly has put us in a good position if we are up or down,” Mensing said. “Facing some adversity against a pretty solid football team is good, too.”
Murphy’s longest touchdown was a 39-yarder in the third quarter. The bulk of his 21 carries helped the Bobcats sustain drives. Whiteford scored on every possession of the first half except the final one when the clock ran out and at the end of the game when it took a knee for the final three plays and two minutes of the game. The Redskins ran only two plays in the fourth quarter as the Bobcats held the ball for the final 11:48.
The Bobcats held the ball for 32 minutes and 27 seconds in all, compared to 15 minutes and 33 seconds for Clinton. They also converted all five of their fourth down conversions and did not punt. Whiteford had 29 first downs, compared to 12 by Clinton, which got three on rushing plays, four on passing plays and five off Bobcat penalties. Whiteford was flagged six times for 80 yards.
Defensively, Ty Eitniear and Hunter Lake had interceptions while linebacker Eli Shelton had two sacks and three tackles for loss for the Bobcats.
Nelson led Clinton’s offense with 124 yards passing. The Redskins gained 158 yards in all.
“It was a grind. It was a tough football game,” Mensing said. “That’s what we need.”
Whiteford finishes the regular season Friday against 1-7 Britton Deerfield. With a win, Whiteford will secure a second straight outright TCC title. The last time Whiteford won back-to-back league championships came in 1964 and 1965 in the River Raisin Conference.
Whiteford went over the 50-point mark for the sixth straight week, a school record.
Thomas Eitniear’s career passing totals are now 149 completions on 245 attempts for 2,857 yards and 34 touchdowns. He is second in completions and first in yards and touchdown passes.
Logan Murphy is just the 12th different running back in Whiteford history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
(Photos by Cari Hayes)