By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE — Whiteford will put a couple of winning streaks on the line Friday night when the Bobcats host Summerfield in a Division 8 district final.
The Bobcats have won five straight games to get to 6-2 on the season. They have won six straight playoff games against Tri-County Conference opponents and have an impressive 11-game home field win streak in the playoffs.
“Summerfield has a very talented football team that has gotten better week in and week out,” Whiteford coach Jason Mensing said. “We had a great game with them the first time we played and I anticipate we will again this time.”
PRE-GAME NOTES (Click Download)
The Bobcats beat Summerfield 34-29 in Week 6 of the regular season. Whiteford running back Devon Shaw carried the ball a school-record 40 times that game and quarterback Shea Ruddy had a big night connecting with end Jack Andrews for two touchdown passes.
Summerfield entered the playoffs seeded fifth among eight teams and have gone on the road to win twice – a 41-0 win over Allen Park Cabrini and a 29-20 victory over Detroit Southeastern last week.
The Bulldogs are playing as well as they have all season. Mensing said the Bobcat defense will have to guard against giving up the big play against an offense that has made big plays all season.
“They have some very talented and explosive players,” he said. “We know they are going to make some plays it is a matter of trying to prevent those big plays from scoring.”
Whiteford has made a habit this season out of late-game heroics. Against Morenci in Week 2, the Bobcats scored with less than a minute left to go up on Morenci 44-36, then had to stop the Bulldogs on a two-point attempt with 30 seconds remaining to keep Morenci from tying the game.
Three weeks later, against Britton Deerfield, Whiteford led 22-18 in the games final seconds when Cole Giesige intercepted a pass at the goal line to secure the Bobcat lead. In Week 6, Whiteford trailed Summerfield 14-0 in the first quarter, then 29-20 one play into the fourth quarter before scoring twice and winning 34-29.
Then, in the second round of the playoffs last week, Whiteford trailed 14-0 and 20-6 before taking a lead into halftime, then had to come back again with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter by Shea Ruddy to pull out a 46-34 victory.
Detroit Leadership Academy head coach Kareem Sadler left the football field last Friday with a lot of respect for the Bobcat program and coaching staff.
“Coach Mensing will be a hall of fame coach,” Sadler said. “I respect him a lot.”
Mensing said the young and relatively inexperienced Bobcats are continuing to grow and learn different game situations. The comeback wins, he said, is a product of players not giving up.
“I don’t know if we know any better,” Mensing said. “Our older kids have been through some adversity and a lot of things. But, the younger kids, I think they just take it like ‘this is what you do,’ you keep playing. Maybe our naiviety is an advantage in some respects.”
Summerfield coach Alex Lipka said his Bulldogs are healthy and ready for the challenge of playing Whiteford a second time. Lipka beat Whiteford in his first season coaching the Bulldogs last year – and the game was at Whiteford.
“They beat us a few weeks back, but our kids are eager to get another chance at them,” Lipka said. “They are always disciplined and give you everything they have. They have a great back in (Devon) Shaw, and one of the best lineman around in (Noah) Bauman. It’s going to be a great game.”
The winner of the Whiteford-Summerfield contest will go on the road for the Regional final against the winner between Clarkston Everest Collegiate and Royal Oak Shrine. That game is Saturday afternoon.
“We feel blessed to still be playing,” Mensing said this week. “It really has been an amazing season with all kinds of adversity. We are grateful for every opportunity and hope it can continue.”