By DOUG DONNELLY
BLISSFIELD –Whiteford saw its long regular season winning streak come to an end, but Bobcat head coach Jason Mensing saw plenty of good things in a 33-14 loss to Blissfield.
“No. 1, I think Blissfield is an excellent team,” Mensing said. “We were playing a very veteran group who have played in a lot of football games. Us being as young as we are, I thought our kids stepped up, played hard and stayed in the game. I was pleased with the performance.”
Whiteford started two freshman and several sophomores and had battled to a 0-0 tie with under five minutes remaining in the first half when Blissfield struck first on a 37-yard interception return by Zach Horky. It quickly turned the tide of a game that was a defensive stalemate to that point.
The two non-league teams exchanged punts early in the game before Blissfield mounted a drive deep into Whiteford territory. They had dropped pass in the end zone, a touchdown called back due to a penalty and two more incomplete passes that turned the ball over to Whiteford at its own 16 with 6:59 left in the first half.
The Bobcats put together a couple first downs, but Horky stepped in front of a Shea Ruddy pass a returned it for the score, getting a couple key blocks along the way.
“Probably conventional wisdom says run out the clock in that situation, but we tend to be a little more aggressive,” Mensing said. “We’ve taken risks here before and they’ve worked out sometimes and they didn’t tonight.”
The score ignited the Royals, who got the ball back before halftime and Gavin Ganun connected with Dean Wyman for a 21-yard touchdown pass with just 1:35 remaining in the first half.
“We had some issues with our special teams in there, we had a snap go over a kids head, and we had the interception late in the second quarter,” Mensing said. “Those things contributed to that.”
Blissfield scored again in the third quarter on a 56-yard run and opened the fourth quarter with a touchdown to make it 27-0.
“Because of what they run, at that point when it was 21-0 or 27-0, that’s tough to come back from,” Blissfield coach Ron Estes said. “My fear all week was getting down a score and then them just snapping it with just one second left on the play clock. We avoided that.”
The Bobcats got a pair of fourth-quarter scores from sophomore Levi Hillard and freshman Eli Dyer. Ruddy, the first freshman in Whiteford history to start a game at quarterback, settled down after the interception to complete 4-of-9 passes for 43 yards and rush for 50 yards on 12 carries.
“He’s a talented kid with a great upside to him,” Mensing said. “What’s amazing is the poise he has for such a young kid. We’re really hopeful this is the start of good things for him.”
Another sophomore, Cole Giesige, led the Bobcats in rushing with 66 yards.
Furll led all rushers with 119 yards on the ground for the Royals, who had 185 yards rushing and 271 yards of total offense in the game, eight fewer than Whiteford’s offense, which ran off 63 offensive plays.
Whiteford entered the game with a 27-game winning streak, the second-longest in Monroe County Region history. Now, Whiteford will look to get back in the win column when they travel to Stryker, Ohio, next Friday.
“The message is we have to grow,” Mensing said about the upcoming week of practice. “Where we are today is not where we can be in a few weeks. We are what we are right now and it’s not as good as Blissfield. Our goal is to get better.”
Blissfield 33, Whiteford 14
Whiteford 0 0 0 14 = 14
Blissfield 0 14 7 12 = 33
B – Zach Horky 37-yard interception return (Christian Kleparek kick), 4:30, 2nd
B – Dean Wyman 21 pass from Gavin Ganun (Christian Kleparek kick), 1:35, 2nd
B – Roman Furll 56 run (Christian Kleparek kick), 7:53, 3rd
B – Josh Weasel 1 run (kick failed), 11:44, 4th
W – Levi Hillard 1 run (run failed), 8:53, 4th
B – Roman Furll 17 run (kick failed), 6:02, 4th
B – Eli Dyer 1 run (Eli Dyer run), :50, 4th
First downs-plays 23-63 12-37
Rushing 54-236 25-185
Passing 4-9-1 5-12-0
Passing yards 43 86
Total offense 279 271
Penalties-yards 7-45 7-60
Punting 2-23.5 2-33.5
RUSHING – Whiteford: Cole Giesige 13-66, Shea Ruddy 12-50, Levi Hillard 9-45, Nick Marchant 6-29, Zach Renaud 4-19, Eli Dyer 4-19, Devon Shaw 4-6, Alex Monaghan 1-3, Skyler Collins 1-(minus)-1. Blissfield: Roman Furll 12-119, Josh Weasel 6-61, Hunter Smith 5-12, Gavin Ganun 2-(minus)-7.
PASSING – Whiteford: Shea Ruddy 4-9-1 43 yards. Blissfield: Gavin Ganun 5-12-0 86 yards.
RECEIVING – Whiteford: Cole Giesige 2-22, Skyler Collins 1-14, Nick Marchant 1-7. Blissfield: Ty Wyman 1-26, Dean Wyman 1-22, Zach Horky 1-18, Kevin Ybarra 1-13, Hunter Smith 1-7.
TACKLE LEADERS – Whiteford: Luke Andrews 5, Braedon Mills 5, Levi Hillard 4, Brodi Tesznar 4, Nick Marchant 4. Blissfield: Ryan Madalinski 10, Dean Wyman 8, Evan Moore 8, Ricky Eisenmann 8, Jack Kurowcki 7.