By DOUG DONNELLY
The Lenawee Christian Cougars were invited to a Tri-County Conference playoff party. They face Whiteford in the Division 8, Region 4, District 1 pre-district with Morenci and Summerfield on the other side of the bracket.
After this game, Lenawee Christian will have faced four of the top nine teams in the final Division 8 Associated Press poll. The others were Pittsford, Climax-Scotts and Au Gres Sims.
“It’s a good measuring stick,” said LCS head coach Bill Wilharms. “As coaches, it certainly helps us to know where we are at as a program to face so many top teams.”
Whiteford, who finished the season ranked No. 2 according to the Associated Press, is full of weapons, most notably quarterback Thomas Eitniear, running back Logan Murphy and returning All-State tackle Lucas Tesznar (6-5, 280).
Eitniear has nearly 5,000 yards of total offense in his three varsity seasons and is 32-4 as a starting quarterback. Murphy has 1,170 yards on just 103 carries this season. Remarkably, 51 of his 103 carries have either gone for a first down or touchdown. Tesznar anchors a line that has led the Bobcat offense to more than 200 first downs and only one punt all season.
“We know we are going to have to slow their running game,” Wilharms said.
The Cougars aren’t sure who will start at quarterback this week. Adam Baker is the team’s leading passer with 1,118 yards through the air, but was injured in Saturday’s game against Au Gres-Sims. Trey Helinski is 10-27 for 132 yards passing and the team’s top receiver at 20 receptions for 368 yards. Hutson Hohlbein has 21 catches for 290 yards, Noah Willett 18 for 243 yards and former Whiteford student Kaleb Kline 18 receptions for 215 yards.
Mark Stroh leads the Cougars in rushing with 89 carries for 518 yards. Baker has 235 yards on the ground.
The Bobcat defense (10.6 points) has been better than it was last year when Whiteford advanced to the Division 8 state finals. Opponents have just five rushing touchdowns against Whiteford all season.
“They are big and physical,” Wilharms said of Whiteford. “We are going to have to be able to throw the ball. We know their strength is stopping the run.”
If he can’t go, Baker would be a big loss on defense for the Cougars, too. He averages 10.4 tackles a game, has three interceptions, four fumble recoveries and four pass break-ups.
“We have tremendous respect for Bill Wilharms and the success Lenawee Christian has had since the inception of their football program,” said Whiteford coach Jason Mensing. “LCS has a great athletic tradition and we hope this will be the first of many games with them in the future.”