By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Coaches sometimes get a feeling how Friday night football games are going to go based on the last couple days of practice before a game.
The Whiteford Bobcats gave head coach Jason Mensing a surprise Friday as they came out and dominated the Blissfield Royals, 48-6, to kick off the 2018 campaign by forcing a running clock against a Royal team expected to compete for an LCAA title.
“I didn’t have the vibe it was going to go like this,” Mensing said. “I’m very happy to be 1-0 right now and happy with the enthusiasm. The biggest thing with high school football is it’s hard. The kids have to push through that discomfort and we did a good job of that.”
The Bobcats seemed to have very little discomfort against the Royals, especially early in the non-league season opener.
Whiteford’s defense forced a punt after just three plays on Blissfield’s first possession. Hunter Lake returned the punt 24 yards to give the Bobcats great field possession at the Royal 36-yard line. After five consecutive Logan Murphy carries got the ball to the five-yard-line, Zack Bertz scored the first touchdown of 2018.
The second time Blissfield had the ball was the same result – a punt. Whiteford scored again when it got the ball back, this time on a 50-yard run by Bertz.
The Bobcats scored three times in the second quarter – touchdown runs by Murphy of four yards and Lake 46 yards and a 34-yard TD reception by Bertz – to go into the locker room up 40-0. The second half started with Bradyn Clark-Gilmore going 84 yards with the kickoff and the Bobcats were suddenly up 48-0 with 11:45 left in the third quarter.
That kickoff return was something the Bobcats have worked on all off-season, Clark-Gilmore said.
“We’ve been working on that during all of our practices,” the senior tight end and outside linebacker said. “I think it caught Blissfield totally by surprise. There was no one in front of me except the kicker. Zack (Bertz) had a great block and it really popped.”
The Bobcat offense clicked to the tune of 314 yards rushing and 48 yards passing while holding Blissfield to 169 yards on the ground and 14 yards through the air. Whiteford’s special teams also had a big night with Lake’s two punt returns going for 56 yards and Clark-Gilmore and D’Ondre Shaw combining for 111 kickoff return yards.
Murphy had 128 yards on the ground, Bertz 62, Lake 62 and D’Ondre Shaw 47.
Eitniear completed his first two varsity passes in the Bobcat win. He was making his first varsity start at quarterback, although he appeared in just about every game for Whiteford last year at the position while backing up his brother, who graduated.
“I was nervous to start out, but you just have to get into the game and get used to it,” Eitniear said.
Bertz had a great game on both sides of the ball. Defensively he led the Bobcats in tackles with eight and had one tackle-for-loss. Treylan Hess, making his Whiteford debut, had five solo tackles and two quarterback sacks from his defensive end position.
Hess was part of a Bobcat defense that limited Blissfield quarterback Gavin Ganun’s time in the pocket. Ganun was sacked three times and completed his only pass of the game late in the third quarter. The Royal sophomore threw for more than 1,800 yards last year as a Freshman and was named the All-Lenawee County quarterback.
The Bobcat players helped celebrate Mensing’s 100th career victory by dousing their coach with water during a post-game celebration. Mensing is 62-13 in his six seasons and one game at Whiteford. He won 38 games during his other coaching stops.
The Bobcats have now won 15 straight games overall, 18 straight home games and 19 straight regular season games. Murphy has reached 100 yards rushing eight consecutive games and scored at least one touchdown in 14 straight contests.
The Bobcats take on Stryker, Ohio, Friday in the first meeting ever between the two schools. For seniors like Clark-Gilmore, it’s another chance to get to take the field at Whiteford’s tree-ringed venue.
“This is like a dream come true,” he said. “My favorite thing to do in the entire world to do is play football in the woods. It’s a blessing.”
Whiteford 48, Blissfield 6
First downs-Plays 13-47 18-41
Rushes-yards 36-169 36-314
Comp-Att-Int 1-12-0 2-5-0
Passing yards 14 48
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-1
Punts-Avg. 3-33.3 0-0
Penalties-Yards 2-15 5-40
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Blissfield 0 0 6 0 — 6
Whiteford 16 24 8 0 — 48
W – Zack Bertz 5 run (Ty Eitniear run), 8:01, 1st
W – Bertz 50 run (Bertz run), 3:04, 1st
W – Hunter Lake 46 run (Lake pass from Eitniear), 6:16, 2nd
W – Logan Murphy 4 run (D’Ondre Shaw run), 4:22, 2nd
W – Bertz 34 pass from Eitniear (Lake run), :51, 2nd
W – Bradyn Clark-Gilmore 84 kickoff return (Murphy run), 11:45, 3rd
B – Hunter Smith 7 run (run failed), 6:03, 3rd
RUSHING — Blissfield: Goetz 10-66, Smith 13-83, Horky 2-27, Kleparek 2-7, Furll 4-7, D. Wyman 1-(minus)-1, Ganun 3-(minus)-20. Whiteford: Murphy 15-128, Bertz 4-62, Lake 3-62, D’Ondre Shaw 7-47, Devon Shaw 3-9, Marchant 2-7, Williams 1-0, Eitniear 1-(minus)-1.
PASSING — Blissfield: Ganun 1-12-0. Whiteford: Eitniear 2-5-0.
RECEIVING— Blissfield: Horky 1-14. Whiteford: Bertz 1-34, Clark-Gilmore 1-14.