By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Jake Iott showed Friday just how good of a two-way player he is.
On the same night Iott broke the single season Whiteford record for tackles, he rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns and went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season to lead Whiteford to a 38-26 regional final win over visiting White Pigeon.
“It was the most physical game we played all year,” Iott said. “They were big, and they were getting low. We just had to lower our pad level and play with them.”
Iott was credited with 14 tackles, giving him 180 on the season, breaking the school’s single season record. On two second quarter drives, Iott had big stops that forced White Pigeon to punt the ball. Both times Whiteford would score quick touchdowns to build an early lead that the visiting Chiefs could never overcome.
“We knew we needed a couple stops,” Iott said. “Once we got those stops, that really got us going. That is what led to our scoring.”
White Pigeon scored first, taking the opening kickoff and going on an 11-play, 64-yard drive that consumed nearly seven minutes of the first quarter clock. They came out and gave the Bobcats a much different look than the usual straight T offense White Pigeon has traditionally operated.
“We worked most of the week on the T, then they came out and weren’t in the T,” Bobcat coach Todd Thieken said. “We adjusted and they went back to it. Our defense kept having to make adjustments, but they did. I was proud of them. I told them before the game we needed at least two stops. We got those early on and that really was the difference.”
Whiteford needed 13 plays on its first drive, which ended when Hunter DeBarr carried it in from eight yards out on the first play of the second quarter to forge an 8-8 tie.
On its next possession, the Chiefs were able to get a first down but a holding penalty put them in a fourth-and-long situation and forced a punt. On the next play, Whiteford quarterback Shea Ruddy scrambled for an amazing 63-yard run that put the Bobcats up 16-8.
“That might be my best run,” Ruddy said after the game. “I saw some pressure so I just scrambled on the back side. I made the first guy miss, cut across the field and made another guy miss. I was pretty tired.”
Ruddy criss-crossed the field a couple of times and got a couple key blocks as he outraced the Chief defenders to the end zone.
The Chiefs went three-and-out on their next drive, giving the Bobcats the ball back midway through the second quarter. DeBarr and Iott took turns getting the ball to the 10 and Ruddy carried it the rest of the way and the Bobcats were up 24-8.
The Chiefs were far from being done, however.
They would score right before halftime after converting a big fourth-and-10 play with a rare pass completion and were aided by a roughing the passer call in which the Bobcats appeared to have an interception. Dom Frachetti’s 2-yard scoring run with :07 left in the half pulled the Chiefs within 10 at 24-14.
After Iott scored to make it 32-14, the Chiefs went on a 19-play drive that led to a touchdown, but also shortened the game as it took the clock down to the 9:23.
“I wasn’t real happy with how we were playing defense, but at the same time, if they were going to take eight minutes off the clock, that’s fine because we can get the ball back and score,” Thieken said.
After the 19-play drive by White Pigeon, Whiteford needed just three plays to score again, Iott getting 50 of the 54 yards on the drive himself.
A late fumble by Whiteford set the Chiefs up with good field position trailing by 12 points, but the Bobcat defense stiffened when they needed to, securing the win.
“We knew coming in we had to score about every time we touched the ball,” White Pigeon head coach Shawn Strasser said. “We didn’t do a good job of stopping them tonight and they did a little better job of stopping us. They are a good football team.”
Whiteford finished with 323 yards of total offense, compared to 303 by White Pigeon. The Chiefs ran 15 more offensive plays than the Bobcats.
“We tell the kids all of the time that someone might score on us, but we can knock scores off with drives of our own,” Thieken said. “When they would score, our offense would answer.”
In addition to the 131 yards rushing by Iott, DeBarr finished with 84 and Ruddy 71.
“I got to hand it to our offensive tonight,” Thieken said. “Our offensive line got off the ball, our backs ran hard, and Shea had a Shea type of night. Our kids played hard. It was a tough game out there.”
Five of Iott’s tackles were solo. His 180 tackles on the season breaks the single season Bobcat record for tackles that was held by Joe Butz in 1986 when he made 172 tackles.
Ryin Ruddy had 10 tackles and Kolby Masserant nine.
The Bobcats are 12-0 for just the second time in school history. They captured their fifth regional title – all since 2015. Next up for the Bobcats is Clarkston Everest Collegiate at a site to be named later.
Photo by Natalie McCormack.