By DOUG DONNELLY
BLISSFIELD – Cole Giesige didn’t get much sleep Thursday night, knowing the start of football season was less than 24 hours away.
He could rest easy Friday night. Giesige scored on a kickoff return, pass reception and long touchdown run to help the Whiteford Bobcats explode for 52 points in a 52-21 win over the Blissfield Royals to open the season.
“I woke up and everything seemed fine,” he said after finding it hard to fall asleep the night before. “When I got here it didn’t seem real. I was so glad to finally start playing again.”
The Bobcats were excited before, during and after the win over the Royals and Giesige was a big reason for the excitement. He scored Whiteford’s first touchdown, which was set up when Ty Ruddy intercepted a pass deep in Blissfield territory on the first play of the game. Giesige took it in from 13 yards to make it 6-0 less than two minutes into the game.
Blissfield came back with a long drive and took a 7-6 lead with 4:48 remaining in the first quarter, then kicked deep to Giesige who fielded the kickoff return at the five-yard line.
“Once I caught the ball, I had my teammate Hunter DeBarr in front of me and I saw the Royals just split right down the middle,” Giesige said. “I pushed Hunter out of the way and saw green grass, saw the kicker come at me and I stiff-armed him a little and I got outside. I thought he was going to take out my legs, but I got past him. It was a great way to get up on them.”
Whiteford trailed for all of 13 seconds.
“Once we started rolling, we played really well,” Giesige said. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work and it’s nice to see it pay off.”
The Bobcats had success in all facets of the game, but it was special teams that made 10-year Whiteford boss Jason Mensing most excited.
“It was defense and special teams that got us up. We probably have worked harder and more on special teams this year than any other year,” he said. “We put a half hour into a day, doing different things. I think it benefited us. That kick return was a very big play.”
Whiteford built a 32-7 lead by halftime.
Bobcat quarterback Shea Ruddy completed a 5-yard scoring strike to his brother Ty Ruddy with 8:15 left in the first half. Ryin Ruddy scored on a 38-yard interception return then Jake Iott plunged into the end zone from the 3-yard line with just 33 seconds left in the first half. Iott’s touchdown was set up by a long pass from Ruddy to Jack Andrews on key third-down play that set the Bobcats up in scoring position.
In the second half, Ruddy threw a 28-yard touchdown to Andrews, and a 51-yard touchdown to Giesige. Fullback Drew Knaggs completed the scoring, running 86 yards to paydirt with 5:28 left in the contest.
The Bobcats put up 460 yards of total offense. Ruddy completed 8-of-11 passes for 191 yards. Knaggs had 94 yards on the ground and Giesige 79. Andrews had two catches for 61 yards and Levi Hillard two for 56.
Shea Ruddy, now a third year starting quarterback for the Bobcats, was impressive in the season debut. The Bobcats had a great mix of running and passing and used various looks on offense. They lined up in the familiar double wing as well as more of a spread offense with Ruddy in the shot gun formation.
“Heading into the game we were thinking we just had to do what we know how to do,” he said. “We wanted to run and pass and mix it up a little bit. I think we did that. We just have to keep getting better.”
Mensing nearly lost his voice in the game, which was played in extreme heat. The officials called timeout on a couple of occasions to allow for water breaks.
“It’s a big win for us,” Mensing said. “They beat us pretty big the last time we played them (2019). We played hard in that game, but we got beat pretty good. They graduated a ton of talent, and we knew that coming into the game. We thought that would even the field a little bit.”
Blissfield, coached by Ron Estes, scored twice in the second half and finished with 254 yards of total offense. Mensing said he saw a lot of good things from his squad.
“I think we came in as a confident group,” he said. “Our guys were excited to play. Anytime you have success it can build confidence.”
Whiteford 52, Blissfield 21
W – Cole Giesige 13 run (pass failed), 10:12
B – Landon Pitts 3 run (Aaron Stalker kick), 4:48
W – Cole Giesige 95 kickoff return (kick failed), 4:35
W – Ty Ruddy 5 pass from Shea Ruddy (run failed), 8:15
W – Ryin Ruddy 38 interception return (Shea Ruddy run), 4:51
W – Jake Iott 3 run (kick failed), :33
B – Chasey Collyer 8 run (Aaron Stalker kick), 5:17
W – Jack Andrews 28 pass from Shea Ruddy (kick failed), 2:34
W – Cole Giesige 51 pass from Shea Ruddy (kick failed), 9:47
B – Owen Smith 12 pass from Noah Schnoor (Aaron Stalker kick), 6:38
W – Drew Knaggs 86 run (Cole Giesige run), 5:28
RUSHING – Whiteford: Drew Knaggs 7-94, Cole Giesige 10-79, Luis Trejo 4-35, Levi Hillard 3-14, Hunter DeBarr 2-13, Brandon Knaggs 2-12, Jake Iott 4-10, Shea Ruddy 4-9, Stepon Masserant 1-3. Blissfield: Chase Collyer 20-108, Luke Nofzinger 3-33, Landon Pitts 6-11, Landon Betz 2-(minus)-3, Noah Schnoor 4-(minus)-6.
PASSING – Whiteford: Shea Ruddy 8-11-0 191 yards. Blissfield: Noah Schnoor 12-18-2 97 yards.
RECEIVING – Whiteford: Jack Andrews 2-61, Levi Hillard 2-56, Cole Giesige 1-51, Drew Knaggs 2-18, Ty Ruddy 1-5. Blissfield: Ty Cantrell 2-58, Owen Smith 5-32, Landon Duval 3-4, Nick Ostas 1-2, Luke Nofzinger 1-1.