By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Every time he put the football in his own hands, it seemed Thomas Eitniear was reaching another milestone Friday night.
The most important milestone was victory No. 10 on the 2017 season as the Bobcats defeated Lenawee Christian 61-6 to move on to the second round of the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 8 playoffs. Whiteford will host Summerfield for the District title.
“It’s a big win for us,” Eitniear said. “We just have to get back at it Monday and have a good week of practice.”
The Bobcats scored on two long possessions on its first two drives Friday against the Cougars, who entered the game 6-3. The first was a 70-yard drive and the second was a nine-play, 88-yard drive. Both ended on short Nathan Bauman touchdown runs.
“We were running a lot of toss and our belly game with him,” Mensing said of Bauman. “He did a nice game running with power. I really liked how he was protecting the ball. That’s why he got so many carries early. He was protecting the ball the best out of all of the backs.”
The Bobcats longest touchdown of the night came on its next drive when senior quarterback Thomas Eitniear ran a sweep, hurdled a Lenawee Christian player, then outran multiple Cougar defenders on his way to a 61-yard touchdown run. It was his first carry of the night and it allowed him to go over the 5,000-yard mark for total offense in his career. Did he jump over the defender or spin around him?
“I was going to spin, but he went super low, so I spun and kind of jumped,” Eitniear said. “I’m not sure what it was.”
Eitniear, starting his school-record 37th straight game at quarterback, has more than 2,000 yards rushing and 3,000 yards passing in his career. He happened to pass both milestones in Friday’s win. He entered the game with 1,971 career rushing yards and added 86 yards on the ground to pass 2,000. In addition, he entered the game with 2,961 career passing yards. He went over 3,000 career yards through the air by hooking up with his brother, Ty, on a 61-yard pass play. He had 76 passing yards on the night.
Counting 52 yards receiving during his junior year, Eitniear now has 5,146 yards of total offense – including 3,037 passing yards and 2,057 rushing yards. He is the first Whiteford quarterback to rush for 2,000 career yards. It’s a school record.
“You don’t get a quarterback as talented as him very often,” Mensing said. “He’s had a great career throwing the ball and running the ball. He had an incredible run to break that. He’s a special kid, a talented kid and humble kid. You rarely get all three.”
Logan Murphy (9 carries, 127 yards rushing) scored two touchdowns, Zach Bertz one and Thomas Eitniear another before halftime as the Bobcats built a 53-0 halftime lead and a running clock for the final 1:17 of the first half and the entire second half. Junior Ty Eitniear finished the Bobcat scoring with a 37-yard run in the third quarter. Bertz has now scored a touchdown in every game.
Ten different Bobcat running backs combined for 517 yards on 46 attempts. The 61 points was the eighth straight week the Bobcats scored at least 50 points.
Eitniear said the weather barely had any effect on the Bobcat offense.
“It kind of limits the passing for us, but it doesn’t hurt us,” he said. “We can pass or run the same. It was a good time today to start the running game.”
Ty Eitniear and Bertz had interceptions and Eli Shelton recovered a fumble for Whiteford. LCS (6-4) had 66 yards passing and minus-three yards rushing for the game. The Cougars completed just five of its 25 passes.
“Our game is throwing the ball,” said Lenawee Christian head coach Bill Wilharms. “It definitely affected us. We had opportunities. We didn’t take advantage of opportunities that were given to us. You can’t do that against good teams.”
Lenawee Christian scored its only touchdown on an 18-yard fumble recovery return by Mark Stroh.
“They are big and physical,” Wilharms said of the 10-0 Bobcats.
Whiteford will host Summerfield in the Division 8, Region 4, District 1 championship game Friday. The Bulldogs beat Morenci 14-6 Friday, breaking a 6-6 tie with less than two minutes in the game on a 62-yard run by running back Chris Bucher.
“It’s exciting – playing your rival for in a trophy game,” Mensing said. “It will be a great atmosphere. There will be a lot of people here. It will be a fantastic night. I can’t wait.”