By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – The Whiteford Bobcats are seeking their first District title since 2017 Friday when the put their 9-1 record on the line against Tri-County Conference foe Sand Creek.
The Aggies bring a 7-3 record into the woods at Whiteford Stadium but lost just twice on the field – once to the Bobcats in Week 5 and once to top-five ranked Beal City in Week 8. Aggie coach Marc Spicer said the Aggies learned from those losses.
“We learned a lot from our loss to Whiteford,” said Spicer. “We felt we left some plays out there. We’re a better football team now because of that loss.”
The Bobcats are better, too. The Bobcats are on a six-game win streak and come into the game as the highest scoring team in all of Division 8 with 514 points. The next closest remaining team in the division has scored 401 points.
Spicer saw first-hand the big play capabilities of the Bobcats in Week 5.
“We’ve got to limit their big plays,” Spicer said. “They broke us on a couple of coverages where we didn’t even have one of their guys covered. I think they had 13 plays of 12 or more yards. We have to limit that.”
In that first meeting, Whiteford quarterback Shea Ruddy threw for 147 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a 50-yard touchdown himself in the third quarter. At one point the Bobcats scored six unanswered touchdowns to take a commanding lead.
“It comes down to the simple things,” Spicer said. “When you play a quality opponent, you have to do the right things every play. I think the game could come down to just a couple of plays.”
Ten-year Whiteford head coach Jason Mensing said the Aggies present a big challenge themselves.
“Sand Creek has a fantastic team that has very good players at nearly every position,” Mensing said. “We expect this to be our toughest game of the season and it will come down to playing physical defense, defending against the big play, and ball security on offense.”
The Aggies are led by John Alexander, who has rushed for 1,645 yards and has 20 rushing touchdowns this season. He was injured in the Aggies’ playoff win over Whitmore Lake last week and might be sidelined. Spicer said earlier this week that the prognosis wasn’t promising for Alexander.
George Hillard is a running and passing threat. He’s thrown for 570 yards and ran for 10 touchdowns. His favorite receiver has been Tylan Waltz, who has 12 catches for 309 yards.
For Whiteford, Ruddy is a 1,000-yard passer and Giesige is a 1,000-yard runner. It’s must the third time in school history that the Bobcats have a 1,000-yard rusher and passer in the same season. The others were 2016 and 2017, when the Bobcats reached the state finals.
Whiteford has made a habit out of scoring just before the half and coming out and scoring to start the third quarter. It’s something Bobcats takes pride in.
“That’s what we want,” Mensing said. “Anytime you can do that, it’s a huge momentum switch. Going up two or three scores completely changes the perplexation of a game.”
In 10 games this season, the Bobcats have scored inside the final two minutes of the first half a remarkable seven times. On six of those occasions – including Friday’s win over Summerfield – Whiteford also scored on the first possession of the second half.
Whiteford scored with 33 seconds left in the first half against Blissfield, 14 seconds before half against Ida, seven seconds to go in the half against Madison, with no time on the clock against Sand Creek, with 1:33 left in the first meeting against Summerfield, with 1:00 to go in the half against Erie Mason and with 53 seconds left before half in the first round of the playoffs.
Sand Creek’s coach Spicer said his Aggies face a difficult task but said its nights like Friday that makes high school football so much fun.
“It’s what you play for,” he said.