By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – It’s been a tradition all season when a Whiteford runner or receiver scores a touchdown, senior offensive lineman Noah Bauman picks that player up in celebration.
Friday, it was Bauman’s turn in the end zone when he scooped a Summerfield Bulldog fumble and returned it 33 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to help Whiteford to a 42-0 win. This time, there was no one picking anyone up.
“I don’t think anyone can,” the 6-5, 305-pound senior said. “I’m a pretty big boy.”
Bauman’s 33-yard run was capped off when he was inserted into the backfield for the two-point conversion. The Bobcats advanced the Division 8 district final by beating shutting out the Bulldogs for the second time this season.
“Seamus (Waterford) hit it out and I thought he fell on the ball but I saw it pop out,” Bauman said of the fumble recovery. “The first thing I thought was to jump on it, then I thought, no, I’m running it back.”
Bauman went untouched into the end zone.
“I was worried I would get hawked down from behind,” he said.
It put an exclamation point on an tremendous five minutes of action for Whiteford.
The Bobcats took a 6-0 lead into halftime, scoring with 53 seconds left in the first half on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Shea Ruddy to his older brother, Ty Ruddy. The Bobcats got the ball to start the second half and drove deep into Bulldog territory, scoring on a 1-yard run by Jake Iott to go up 14-0. The key play on the drive was a 44-yard pass from Ruddy to Cole Giesige on a third-and-long.
The score remained 14-0 until late in the third quarter when Shea Ruddy dropped back to pass, scrambled and went 32 yards for a touchdown.
“I went back and was looking for a certain route and it wasn’t there, then I noticed the whole side of the field empty,” Shea said. “I just took off.”
Whiteford quickly forced a Bulldog punt. On its next offensive play, Ruddy took the snap and went 71 yards up the middle for a touchdown and suddenly Whiteford led 26-0. Center Kyle Gray had the block that gave Ruddy a hole to run through.
It was two plays later that Summerfield fumbled, leading to Bauman’s touchdown and a 34-0 Whiteford lead. Drew Knaggs added a touchdown run with 8:06 left in the game to put Whiteford up 42-0.
Whiteford’s offense finished with 456 total yards with a dominating second half. The game was played in a driving rain for much of the night and the Bobcat field was predictably muddy.
Whiteford coach Jason Mensing said that played a factor in the low scoring first half.
“I think the sloppy conditions led to that,” Mensing said. “We weren’t finishing drives and we were having issues completing some of our pass concepts. I think that’s what kept it close – the field.”
Whiteford’s defense was led by Iott, who had 13 tackles. Levi Hillard and Bauman each had 2.5 tackles for loss and Bauman added a sack. Jack Giesige and Jack Andrews each blocked punts. Lincoln Joerin intercepted a pass. Whiteford forced seven punts.
“We were playing some great defense,” Mensing said. “They couldn’t move the ball against us.”
Summerfield’s season closes 6-4.