By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Last season at this time, Jack Andrews was Whiteford’s starting center, snapping the ball to Bobcat quarterback Shea Ruddy.
On Friday night, however, it was Ruddy delivering the ball to Andrews on a perfect spiral with less than a minute remaining to help the Bobcats hold off a determined Morenci Bulldog squad, 44-42. It was Whiteford’s first win of the season and snapped a rare three-game skid for the Bobcats that dated back to Week 8 of last season.
Andrews moved to tight end during the off-season. Ruddy found the 6-3 junior behind the Morenci defenders with :48 seconds remaining on a fourth-and-four from their own 36-yard line and Andrews covered the entire 64 yards, outracing the Morenci defenders to the end zone.
“Coach was telling me that if I run that route hard, I’d pop open every once in a while,” said Andrews. “I popped open and Shea saw it. I don’t even know what happened. I just caught the ball and started running. Everything kind of went silent. Next thing I know I was on the ground in the end zone.
“I knew someone was coming up behind me. I know I’m not the fasted kid on the field, but I just thought to myself, ‘I’m scoring on this one. I want this touchdown.’”
Andrews caught his first career pass in the first half of Friday’s game and was Whiteford leading receiver with 88 yards on two catches.
“It’s crazy,” Andrews said. “Coach said that after watching me play basketball they decided to move me to tight end. It works out with the offense, because there is more passing.”
Ruddy had a great night, completing 8 of 11 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns, plus running for two touchdowns and gaining 104 yards on the ground. He ran for one 2-point conversion and threw for another. He made four solo tackles on defense and had 62 yards in kickoff returns.
“We had the play working all night,” Ruddy said. “He was my last option on that. I saw him right out of the gate. There was no one overtop and no one underneath. He did a good job.
“It’s a weird dynamic,” Ruddy continued. “I was receiving the ball from his last year, now I’m giving it to him.”
When the Bobcats broke the huddle, Morenci had two players deep, expecting a punt. But Whiteford coach Jason Mensing sent the offense back onto the field for the pass play.
“It was a great play by Shea,” Mensing said. “We had good pass protection on it. He went through his check downs. They had rotated coverage a little bit. He saw the deep receiver and hit him.”
The late touchdown didn’t put the game out of reach because the Bobcats didn’t convert the two-point conversion. Morenci came right back, scoring in just three plays on a 46-yard pass play from Braylon Stover to Landon Mansfield. But, Noah Bauman and others on the Whiteford defensive front stopped the Morenci ball-carrier on a two-point conversion attempt with 30 seconds remaining that would have tied the game.
Freshman Hunter Debarr recovered the onside kick for Whiteford, sealing the win.
The Bobcat offense compiled 502 yards in all. Cole Giesige rushed 11 times for 172 yards and caught two passes for 32 yards. He scored twice. Luke Masserant also caught a TD from Ruddy. Whiteford never trailed, although the game was tied 14-14 and 22-22.
“We grew a lot,” Whiteford coach Jason Mensing said. “I’m really proud of how we competed. They played really, really hard. We had one turnover this week compared to five, which is a big deal. That’s a big growth.”
Freshman Jake Iott led the Whiteford defense with 10 tackles. Devon Shaw had eight stops, including a key tackle of a Bulldog ball carrier on a fourth-and-goal play early in the third quarter at the 3-yard line. Levi Hillard had six tackles.
The Bobcats play at Sand Creek next Friday.
“It was a huge win,” Ruddy said. “We really needed it to get our momentum back.”
WHITEFORD 44, MORENCI 42
W – Shea Ruddy 31 run (Shea Ruddy run), 9:48
M – Cam Smith 39 pass from Braylon Stover (run failed), 7:49
W – Luke Masserant 6 pass from Shea Ruddy (run failed), :40
M – Evan Mansfield 10 run (Evan Mansfield run), 6:50
W – Cole Giesige 55 run (Clay Speweik pass from Shea Ruddy), 6:31
M – Evan Mansfield 4 run (Evan Mansfield run), :37
W – Shea Ruddy 19 run (Cole Giesige run), 6:08
M – Landon Mansfield 11 run (pass failed), 5:00
W – Cole Giesige 16 pass from Shea Ruddy (Cole Giesige run), 2:05
M – Landon Mansfield 8 run (Rodney Zimmerman run), 10:29
W – Jack Andrews 64 pass from Shea Ruddy (run failed), :48
M – Landon Mansfield 48 pass from Braylon Stover (run failed), :30
RUSHING – Morenci: Evan Mansfield 18-135, Rodney Zimmerman 14-129, Landon Mansfield 12-55, Cam Smith 2-6, Carsyn Varga 3-4, Braylon Stover 1-(minus)-2. Whiteford: Cole Giesige 11-172, Shea Ruddy 16-104, Devon Shaw 7-51, Levi Hillard 1-3.
PASSING – Morenci: Braylon Stover 6-11-0 141 yards. Whiteford: Shea Ruddy 8-11-0 172 yards.
RECEIVING – Morenci: Landon Mansfield 2-66, Cam Smith 1-39, Nolan Pummell 1-22, Joacb Reincke 1-8, Rodney Zimmerman 1-6. Whiteford: Jack Andrews 2-88, Clay Speweik 3-46, Cole Giesige 2-32, Luke Masserant 1-6.
PHOTOS BY NATALIE MCCORMACK