‘Two Best’ Division 8 teams reach finals – Bobcats to take on Bearcats at Ford Field

By DOUG DONNELLY

For The Monroe News

OTTAWA LAKE – Sometimes things just work out.

When Whiteford and Ubly meet Friday in the Division 8 finals, there’s little doubt the two best teams will meet to decide the state championship.

“The two best teams are here,” Ubly head coach Eric Sweeney said. “Whiteford is the best team we’ll play all year. We’ve kind of been on a crash course all season to play each other. I’m happy the pairings worked out this way. For a while, we thought it might be a semifinal matchup.”

Both teams are undefeated at 13-0 and have won in remarkably similar fashion. Ubly has outscored opponents 631-91 while Whiteford has scored 638 points and allowed 158. Ubly has three shutouts and Whiteford two. Ubly’s lowest scoring total of the season is 41. Whiteford’s is 30, but that came in game in which the opponent declined to take the field in the second half.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Sweeney said. “I think it will be outstanding game. We have to play our best game.”

Ubly has reached the state championship game twice in school history and the Bearcats are still searching for their first title. They were shutout by Centreville in 2020 in Sweeney’s first season as head coach in a game that the Bearcats weren’t sure they would get to play in until a couple days before kickoff because of COVID-19 protocols.

Whiteford played at Ford Field in both 2016 and 2017, winning the state title in 2017.

Current Whiteford head coach Todd Thieken was an assistant coach on that team. He took over the Bobcats this season in June and has Whiteford playing at the top of its game with one to play.

“They block well,” Sweeney said. “They play great defense. They play as good of base defense as we’ve seen all year and have good size up front. They just do things the right way.”

Ubly is a Power-T, Wing-T team with basically four running backs spreading carries between them. One of those is junior quarterback Evan Peruski. He came into the state semifinal game against Iron Mountain as the team’s leading rusher on the season with more than 1,100 yards.

“He’s basically a fourth running back,” Sweeney said. “He’s kind of a left-handed version of Whiteford’s quarterback. He played at Ford Field as a freshman. He’s athletic and can run when he gets out into space.”

The Ubly backs are Mark Heilig, Aiden Mackowiak and Seth Maurer. Heilig has more than 1,300 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns this season. Both Mackowiak and Maurer are up around 900 yards rushing.

“We’re a run-heavy team,” Sweeney said. “When we talk about balance, it’s not run and pass, its balance on carries between the four backs.”

Canden Peruski and Mitchell Foote are anchors of the Ubly offensive line with Parker Peruski leading the defensive front and Mackowiak the team’s best linebacker. Brett Mueller has more than 80 extra-points.

“You can certainly see why Ubly is playing in this game on Friday,” Thieken said. “They are excellent in all three phases of the game.”

The Bobcats have a little more balance between the rushing attack and passing game, although they’ve thrown only 20 passes this post-season. Shea Ruddy has 19 touchdown passes and more than 1,100 yards passing. After his seventh career 100-yard rushing game in the playoffs alone last week, Ruddy has 725 yards rushing and is averaging a team-best 9.0 yards per carry. He’s scored 17 rushing touchdowns and 18 overall.

“That quarterback is as good an athlete as I’ve seen,” Sweeney said.

Whiteford’s backfield tandem of Jake Iott (1,121 yards on 137 carries) and Hunter DeBarr (1,116 yards on 133 carries) both average better than eight yards a carry. Fullback Drew Knaggs (524 yards) is not far behind.

Defensively, Iott has 189 tackles, Ryin Ruddy 113 and Shea Ruddy is third on the team with 64 stops. He leads the team with 18 passes broke up. Iott has 14 tackles for loss in his record-breaking season. Kolby Masserant had two huge interceptions in Whiteford’s semifinal win and is tied for the team lead in that category with Ryin Ruddy.

The game is at 10 a.m. at Ford Field on Friday.

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