By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Whiteford has found a replacement for Whitmore Lake on its 2019 varsity football schedule.
The Bobcats will host Schoolcraft in Week 3 of the 2019 season. The Eagles have an outstanding football tradition that includes 10 consecutive playoff appearances and state championships in 1988, 1989 and 2001.
“Schoolcraft has always been a program that we have admired from afar,” said Jason Mensing, Whiteford’s football coach and athletic director. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to play them as they have been one of the great small school programs in the state.”
It will be a doubleheader as the JV teams will play at 4 p.m. and the varsity game at 7. Whiteford will host.
“It’s a big-time game,” said Nathan Ferency, Schoolcraft’s football coach. “We are looking forward to going down there and playing. It will be a neat thing, something special for small-school football in Michigan.”
Whiteford needed a replacement game because Whitmore Lake is departing the Tri-County Conference at the close of the 2018-19 sports season. The TCC will have just six league games in 2019. The Bobcats have won three straight TCC titles.
Ferency has coached one season at Schoolcraft. The Eagles were 9-3 last season, advancing to the Division 6 Regional final before losing to Montague. The Eagles will return a lot of talent from that squad.
“We return all of our skill players, including our quarterback (Alex Thole) who threw for 1,700 yards and 23 touchdowns as a sophomore,” Ferency said. “We have seven returning starters on offense and six on defense. We expect to have a good year.”
Eagle running back Koby Clark was recently named to the First Team All-State football squad by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association. He’ll be a senior. Clark set a Michigan prep football record with nine touchdowns in a game last season against Constantine. He is the son of former Ravenna record-setting running back Benny Clark.
Schoolcraft is 60-17 over the past seven years.
The Bobcats will be coming off a 10-1 season. Whiteford starts the 2019 season with a 27-game regular season winning streak. The Bobcats have made the playoffs each of the past seven seasons under Mensing, who is 71-14 during the span. The returning starters for the Bobcats are tackles Noah Bauman and Josh Hagan, linebacker Devon Shaw, defensive end Brodi Tesznar and cornerback Nick Marchant.
“I’ve watched them play in the state finals the last couple of years and I’ve listened to Coach Mensing speak at various coaching clinics,” Ferency said. “They’ve had great success and play at a high level.”