By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – A couple of high-powered offenses will square off Friday when the No. 2 ranked Whiteford Bobcats take on the Sand Creek Aggies in an important Tri-County Conference battle.
The Bobcats (6-0, 4-0) have won 20 straight games, tied for the longest current winning streak in the state, and have forced a running clock in all six games it has played. The Aggies (4-2, 3-1) have put up 56, 62, 27 and 56 points in its four league games.
The scoreboard operator at Ernie Ayers Stadium in Sand Creek better be ready for a lot of work.
“It’s going to be a great challenge, but I told our kids that to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Sand Creek coach Scott Gallagher said. “We’re going to get their best and they are going to get our best.”
The Aggies are in the first year of employing an offense known as the single wing.
The crux of the offense is to keeps defenses guessing who has the ball on which play. With speedy backs like Alec Muck – a five-time state champion in track – and Will Alexander toting the ball, that split second where the defense is wondering which one of them has the ball can be the difference between a 5-yard gain and a 70-yard touchdown run.
“Sand Creek is a fantastic team,” Whiteford head coach Jason Mensing said. “They have a strong offensive line who gets off the ball well and they have tremendous speed in their backfield.
“The single wing is a unique offense and creates some challenges to prepare for it and certainly we know this will be a tremendous challenge.”
If you want to know where the Aggies came up with the single-wing offense, the answer starts in Florida, about halfway between Jacksonville and Miami, and Florida’s Apopka High School. Coach Rick Darlington is a longtime football coach at Apopka that has consistently produced winning football teams using the single-wing offense.
Gallagher went to Florida this summer to meet with Darlington and talk about the offense. He happened-upon the offense while studying how to defend the double wing offense.
“I went down there and studied it,” Gallagher said. “I’ve learned from coach Darlington. He’s helped every step of the way. We’ve kind of adopted it now.”
Few Michigan teams, if any at this point, are running the single-wing. The basics are this: Any one of four backs can get the football on any given play. What’s different from standard offenses is there is no designed quarterback. Noah Benge, Muck, Alexander and Carson Scroggie all line up in positions where they can receive a direct snap from the center, or they go in motion and receive the snap. Or, they are used as blocking backs and sometimes both quarterbacks and receivers.
Benge is probably the closest thing to a quarterback, although he’s often much more of a lead-blocking fullback then a quarterback. On a lot of plays, he doesn’t even touch the football.
Sand Creek was shutout in week one but have continued to learn the offense and get better at executing it, Gallagher said.
“As we learn it more, the kids have gained a lot of confidence in it,” he said.
Muck has rushed for a TCC-best 801 yards. He also is the second all-time leading scorer in TCC history.
Whiteford’s offense has been efficient all season, scoring on 43 of its 51 offensive drives. The Bobcats have converted 16 of its 25 third down conversions (64 percent) and five of its sixth fourth-down conversion attempts. Whiteford has not punted this season.
Quarterback Ty Eitniear has the highest completion percentage of any TCC quarterback (68 percent) and is tied for the league lead with nine touchdowns. Whiteford’s starting backfield is averaging 12.9 yards per carry. Hunter Lake leads the group, averaging 17.3 yards a carry (18 attempts and 312 yards). Zack Bertz is averaging 15.1 yards (19-287) while Logan Murphy is averaging 10.3 yards on his (48-496).
The Bobcats defense has allowed just four touchdowns this season, an average of 4.3 points a game. Sand Creek’s defense has given up 132 points, or 22.0 points a game.
The Bobcats already have qualified for the state playoffs for a school-record seventh straight year and has three regular season games remaining.
“We have been very blessed to have been able to play extra weeks for the last seven years and really that speaks volumes of the character of our community, the talent we have had in the program, and the knowledge and experience our staff has,” Mensing said.