By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Whiteford’s football team needed a big play and sophomore defensive back Hunter DeBarr figured it might as well be him.
With Whiteford trailing 12-6 with just under 10 minutes left before halftime, DeBarr stepped in front of a Clarkston Everest Collegiate pass and somehow stayed in-bounds. The turnover was the biggest play of the game as the Bobcats then reeled off an 18-play, 99-yard drive to take the lead, 14-12.
Whiteford (11-1) would go on to beat the visiting Mountaineers, 38-12, to win the Division 8 Region 4 regional championships and advance to next week’s semifinal.
“We thought they were going to run some kind of trick play,” DeBarr said. “Coaches told us to be ready for something and I saw the running back rolling out and I just stayed with my guy and made a play on the ball.
“I didn’t even know if I stayed in-bounds or not. I was just trying to get the ball.”
The 99-yard drive was finished off by a 1-yard run by Cole Giesige, who scored three touchdowns Saturday. Quarterback Shea Ruddy was good on the two-point conversion to give Whiteford its first lead of the game.
“That was huge, a big momentum change, probably the key play of the game,” Ruddy said. “It was a really big play.”
The Bobcats had dodged a bullet two plays earlier. Everest College quarterback Joey Thibodeau had completed what appeared to be an 11-yard touchdown pass, but the Mountaineers were called for an offensive pass interference and the touchdown was taken off the board.
“Big play,” Whiteford coach Jason Mensing said. “Hunter is a very athletic kid and made a great play on the ball and then stayed in-bounds.”
Whiteford’s offense picked up its intensity after gaining the lead, scoring again before halftime and twice in the fourth quarter. On the touchdown with 14 seconds left before halftime, Ruddy dropped back to pass and scrambled, making a dazzling 35-yard run.
“We were looking to make a pass there, get some chunk yardage, call a timeout and set something up,” Mensing said. “Shea started scrambling and was on the backside of the play. He made a few moves. It was a nice play.”
Ruddy was Whiteford’s leading rusher with 131 yards on 13 carries. He completed five passes for 74 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown to Giesige. Giesige had 78 yards rushing, Drew Knaggs 75 and Jake Iott 65. Luis Trejo scored on an 8-yard touchdown run and had 36 yards on six attempts.
Everest Collegiate won the coin toss and elected to get the ball first, scoring on an 11-play, 57 yard drive. Whiteford rebounded quickly, going to an up-tempo offense and scored on an 11-yard run by Giesige to tie the game.
Everest scored on its next possession on a 19-yard touchdown from Thibodeau to Jimmy Nedwick but missed the extra point.
Whiteford’s offense put up 459 yards, compared to 252 by Everest. However, the Whiteford defense stiffened in the second half, giving up just 38 yards in the second half.
DeBarr had two interceptions and Levi Hillard recovered a fumble for Whiteford. Ryin Ruddy had seven solo tackles while Hillard and Iott had six stops each.
Whiteford will take on undefeated Hudson on Saturday at a site to be determined. The Bobcats finished the regular season No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll of the season while Hudson was No. 1.
“We are extremely happy to get to play another week,” Mensing said. “We have a great group of guys and coaches and we are excited to spend another week together playing coaching football.