By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – For the third year in a row, Whiteford is one of the final four teams remaining alive in Division 8.
The 12-0 Bobcats defeated Clarkston Everest Collegiate Saturday, 60-20, to win a third straight Regional championship. It was another record-setting day for Whiteford, which put up 530 yards of total offense and broke the single season scoring record for the Monroe County Region.
It was a big day for a host of Bobcats.
Leading rusher and scorer Logan Murphy ran for 190 yards, two touchdowns and three two-point conversions, plus had two sacks on defense.
Thomas Eitniear passed for 144 yards, including a 62-yarder to his brother, Ty Eitniear, for a touchdown.
Zach Bertz carried the ball twice for 57 yards, scoring two touchdowns and converting three two-point conversions. He also made a solid contribution on defense with several pass breakups and nine tackles.
“Your best players make big plays in big games,” Whiteford coach Jason Mensing said. “Certainly, we had that today.”
The Bobcat offensive line cleared holes for 11 different Whiteford ball carriers, who rushed for 386 yards – at nearly 9 yards a tote. Murphy, echoing what Bertz said about the blockers up front last week, called the line in front of him the best in the state.
“They open up the biggest holes,” he said. “As a running back, that’s all you can ask for.”
Murphy and Bertz were running behind a solid offensive line that includes – all seniors – center Jacob Lewis, guards Jordan Book and Alex Kohler and tackles Jarret Atherton and Lucas Tesznar.
“Ultimately, we’ve got five kids in there, plus tight end Matthew Taylor, who’ve played a lot of football together,” Mensing said. “For some of them, next week will be 27 games that they’ve started together. A lot of what we do is timing and spacing and having things coming together at the right time. With the amount of reps that they have done together, I think that has had an impact.”
Everest Collegiate, playing in their first Regional final, used a stout passing attack to stay close to the Bobcats in the early going. Whiteford used a turnover to set up its first touchdown – a two-yard run by Nate Bauman – but the Mountaineers came right back with a touchdown pass from senior Grant Burgess to Simon Fenske and tied the game at 8-8.
Whiteford scored on its next drive, this time a two-yard run by Hunter Lake, and Murphy converted another conversion as Whiteford went up 16-8. Everest, however, finished an eight-play, 77-yard drive to cut it to 16-14 late in the first quarter, then recovered an onside kick to set up another scoring chance, driving to the Whiteford 13. A Fenske field goal missed the mark, however, and the Bobcats took over.
“We were right there,” said Everest Collegiate coach Michael Pruchnicki. “We had the opportunity to take the lead, but the momentum shifted. You give them a step and they take a mile. They did a good job.”
The Bobcats would go on to score the next six touchdowns of the game, building a 40-14 halftime lead and going up 60-14 before the Mountaineers found the end zone with 25 seconds to play during a running clock situation.
During that stretch, Murphy scored on runs of 17 and 24 yards, Eitniear found his brother Ty on a 62-yard scoring strike, Bertz scored on runs of 13 and 44 and Jacob Kahn carried it into the end zone for the final score of the game for Whiteford. The 60 points gave Whiteford 645 points on the season, breaking St. Mary Catholic Central’s previous Monroe County Region record of 606 points in a season in 2010.
There were numerous offensive contributions. Brayden Clark-Gilmore caught two passes for 78 yards while Bauman had six carries for 31 yards. Deondre Shaw carried six times in the fourth quarter for 40 yards. Kahn, a freshman, scored a touchdown on his first ever varsity carry.
Burgess did complete 21 passes for 307 yards against the Bobcat defense. But the Mountaineers would gain just 14 yards rushing on 24 attempts and had 23 incompletions as a team.
“We made some adjustments in coverage,” Mensing said. “Those adjustments helped us. Early in the game they were converting on some fourth downs and things like that. It’s hard to do that all game long. Even when they were doing that, I felt we were in a pretty good position.”
Abhijit Risley had 10 tackles, including nine solo, to lead the Whiteford defense. Eli Shelton knocked down a pass and had five tackles.
Saturday was the Bobcats’ 17th consecutive win at home. No team in the history of Monroe County has ever won more games over any three-year period. The Bobcats went 10-3 in 2015, reaching the semifinals; went 13-1 last year, losing in the state championship game, and are 12-0 this year – for a three-year total of 35-4.
The Bobcats will play Mendon next weekend in the Division 8 semifinals. It will be the first meeting of the two teams. Whiteford is the first Tri-County Conference football team to appear in three consecutive semifinals.
“They present a completely different challenge,” Mensing said about the 12-0 Mendon Hornets. “They are a power, physical football team. They’ve won 12 state titles. They’ve been there and know how it feels. Hopefully it will be a tremendous football game.”