CORREX: Offensive yardage for Whiteford
By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Whiteford had to come back twice Friday night, overcoming a tremendous effort by Petersburg-Summerfield, to win a third consecutive Division 8 district championship, 36-20.
“They came out with a game plan that really slowed things down and used clock and had a balanced attack.” Bobcat coach Jason Mensing said. “They did a great job of executing it.”
The Bulldogs lost to the Bobcats 54-6 in the third week of the season, but things were much closer this time around. Chris Bucher rushed for 218 yards on 31 carries, caught a pass for 47 yards and had 10 tackles for Summerfield in an outstanding effort. But, in the end, the Bobcats were able to seize control of the game with a 20-point second half.
“They were better than us tonight,” first-year Summerfield coach Ryan Lefevre said. “I’m proud of our kids for getting us in the situation they did. It came down to they had a few more players.”
Zach Bertz scored three touchdowns for the Bobcat offense, which came into the game as the highest scoring team in all of Michigan. Summerfield held the Bobcats to nearly 20 points below its average by controlling the clock in the first half. They ran 34 plays in the opening 24 minutes, compared to 14 for Whiteford.
Summerfield scored first, putting together a 12-play, 65-yard drive, capped by a Chris Bucher run. The Bobcats came right back, taking the lead on a Bertz touchdown run and a Hunter Lake two-point conversion.
Bucher gave Summerfield a 14-8 lead in the second quarter, ending another long Bulldog drive. But, less than a minute later, Whiteford quarterback Thomas Eitniear hit Brayden Clark Gilmore on a 43-yard pass for a score. Logan Murphy scored on a two-point conversion and Whiteford went up 16-14. The score stayed 16-14 at half when Whiteford held Summerfield on a fourth-and-long at the Bobcat 8-yard line.
Whiteford took the second half kickoff 66 yards in six plays, capped by a Bertz run of 14 yards and Whiteford led 22-14. Summerfield bounced right back on a 63-yard run by Bucher but couldn’t convert the conversion and trailed 22-20 with 8:44 left in the third. Bertz scored on Whiteford’s next drive on a 37-yard run and Murphy capped the scoring with a 12-yard run in the middle of the fourth quarter to close the scoring.
Bertz had just five carries, but he picked up 68 yards and three scores. He’s scored in every game this season.
“It’s easy when I have one of the best offensive lines in the state to run behind,” Bertz said. “I followed (Lucas) Tesznar and he led me to the promised land.”
Whiteford scored on every offensive possession except when it took a knee to end the first half and took a knee to end the game.
The Bobcat defense stopped the Bulldogs on four of its six fourth-down conversion attempts, including twice in the red zone, including once at the 8-yard line. Whiteford, on the other hand, was good on all three of its fourth-down conversions and is now 17-for-17 on fourth-down conversion attempts this season.
“It’s part of our philosophy,” Mensing said after Whiteford improved to 11-0. “It’s been that way for the six years I’ve been here. We believe in ourselves to get that first down and to control the ball and control the clock.”
Murphy finished with
84 112 yards on 14 16 carries while Eitniear completed two of three passes for 68 yards. The Bobcats put up 336 364 yards of offense.
Jarret Atherton and Eli Shelton each had seven tackles for the Bobcats. Shelton had two tackles for loss, as did defensive tackle DeShaun Williams. Summerfield’s Brendan Zeipekis, the leading passer in the TCC and Monroe County, was able to complete just one pass, going to Bucher for 47 yards. Noah Cunningham, the top receiver in the league, was held without a catch, although he did catch a two-point conversion pass.
Whiteford will host Clarkston Everest Collegiate next week in the Division 8 Regional final. The district championship is the fourth in Mensing’s six years at Whiteford, which has won 16 straight home games.
“It’s pretty neat,” Mensing said. “We’ve done it three years in a row and that’s the first time in school history we’ve done that. Anytime we can do something for the first time, it’s exciting.”
Whiteford 36, Summerfield 20
Summerfield 6 8 6 0 = 20
Whiteford 0 16 14 6 = 36
S – Chris Bucher 1 run (pass failed), 5:43, 1st
W – Zach Bertz 5 run (Hunter Lake run), 10:45, 2nd
S – Bucher 6 run (Noah Cunningham pass from Brendan Zeipekis), 4:40, 2nd
W – Bradyn Clark-Gilmore 43 pass from Thomas Eitniear (Logan Murphy run), 3:54, 2nd
W – Zach Bertz 14 run (run failed), 9:00, 3rd
S – Bucher 63 run (pass failed), 8:44, 3rd
W – Zach Bertz 37 run (Zach Bertz run), 4:07, 3rd
W – Logan Murphy 12 run (run failed), 6:29, 4th