By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – A third consecutive Tri-County Conference championship will be on the line tonight when the 7-0 Whiteford Bobcats host the 6-1 Clinton Redskins.
Both teams are 5-0 in the TCC. The winner will clinch no worse than a share of the league title.
“I’m fired up,” Whiteford coach Jason Mensing said.
First-year Clinton head coach Jeremy Fielder said the Redskins are excited as well.
“It’s been a couple of seasons since we’ve played for a championship. That’s why you play football, to play in games of this magnitude.”
Since joining the TCC in 2007, Clinton has been the best team in the league overall. They won six league titles in their first nine years in the league and have an all-time league record of 69-13.
The Bobcats have dominated the league since the start of the 2016 season, going 19-0 and winning back-to-back league titles. Clinton stands in the way of a third straight Bobcat title.
“They are good,” Mensing said. “They have good athletes and are extremely well coached. It’s a tremendous challenge.”
Clinton lost in Week 2 to Blissfield but have bounced back with five straight wins and already have clinched an automatic playoff berth. The Redskins have been hit by injuries, but you wouldn’t notice it in the five straight TCC wins in which they’ve averaged 40.6 points a game and allowed just 14.8.
“Our guys have been really resilient,” Fielder said. “We are blessed with depth. Our offensive and defensive lines have been a strength for us. The guys have done an outstanding job.”
Sophomore running back/linebacker Brayden Randolph is out due to an injury and last week running backs Jack Voll and Clayton Langer-Freeman sat out the game against Britton Deerfield due to injuries. Mensing said he expects both back in the Clinton lineup Friday.
First-year starting Redskin quarterback Dylan Settles has rushed for 477 yards and passed for 316. Voll (424 yards rushing), Christian Minard (355), Langer-Freeman (344), Noah Comar (258) and Noah DeShano (224) lead a balanced and potent Clinton rushing attack.
Clinton also has found a weapon in freshman kicker Jonathan Baughey. He’s made 24 extra point attempts and last week hit his first career field goal.
The Bobcats haven’t lost since the 2016 state championship game and are averaging 52.7 points per game. They have given up just seven touchdowns this season – including three last week to Sand Creek.
The Bobcats have an outstanding backfield with Logan Murphy (611 rushing yards), Hunter Lake (370 yards), Zack Bertz (308 yards) and quarterback Ty Eitniear, who is completing 67 percent of his passes. Of Eitniear’s 20 completions, 11 have gone for touchdowns, including six to tight end Bradyn Clark-Gilmore (325 yards receiving). Leading the Bobcat defense is imposing tackle DeShaun Williams (13 tackles for loss) and Treylan Hess (46 tackles, four sacks).
“They are good everywhere,” Fielder said. “When you put that kind of speed into that system … it would be fun to watch if I didn’t have to play them.”
The game is at Whiteford, where the Bobcats have won 21 straight games.