Whiteford scores early, takes control and defeats Nouvel, 42-21, for program’s first state title
Detroit – Ottawa Lake Whiteford used the experience of playing in last season’s final and took control early on Friday.
Senior Thomas Eitniear and junior Logan Murphy combined for five touchdown runs in the first half as Whiteford took a 34-7 lead at halftime and the Bobcats went on to defeat Saginaw Nouvel, 42-21, in the Division 8 final at Ford Field.
It’s gradually run to the state championship began in 2012 when Whiteford finished 8-1 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The next season it won the program’s second district title and finished 9-3. The Bobcats reached their first semifinal in 2015 and lost in the final to Muskegon Catholic Central, 35-6, last season.
“It helped me a lot,” Murphy said of playing in the 2016 final. “I was kind of in awe last year. I crowd is super loud here, and I remembered that.”
Whiteford (14-0) did not punt in the first half and Eitniear attempted one pass in the second half, which he completed, and was 7-of-11 for 143 yards.
Whiteford did most of its work on the ground as Eitniear led the way with 129 yards on 10 carries and three touchdowns. Murphy, a 6-foot, 190-pound running back, had 126 yards on 16 carries and three touchdowns.
As a team Whiteford rushed for 341 yards on 47 attempts.
“They’re good,” Nouvel coach Mike Boyd said. “What didn’t they have? We didn’t play our best football. But we battled. Football is such a game of momentum. When we had chances, we didn’t make the plays. We gave up a few big plays. That’s something we talked about. I thought we did a good job against the run.”
Eitniear recovered an onside kick to start the game and, 51 seconds into the game, Eitniear scored on a 37-yard run that gave Whiteford a 6-0 lead.
Six minutes later the Bobcats took a 12-0 lead on Murphy’s 1-yard touchdown run. Murphy’s 71-yard touchdown run with 1:27 left in the first quarter increased the lead to 20-0.
Whiteford took a 28-0 lead on Eitniear’s 6-yard touchdown run.
Tate Hausbeck threw the first of his two touchdown passes to Ken Kujawa, this one from 28 yards out, to bring the Panthers to within 28-7 with 43 seconds left in the half. Whiteford quickly answered as the Bobcats went 73 yards in five plays scoring with Eitniear completing the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run as time expired.
Whiteford took a 42-7 lead before Nouvel (13-1) scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes.
Whiteford coach Jason Mensing said he and his staff decided to try the onside kick 20 minutes before kickoff.
“Our philosophy isn’t going to change,” Mensing said. “We knew they had good kick returners and we didn’t want to kick it to them.
“We recovered it, didn’t we?”
The last comment was directed at Eitniear who nodded his head.
“It’s awesome to go out this way,” Eitniear said. “I’m not surprised at our (offensive line). They worked so hard all year.”
Whiteford scored 737 points this season tying Beal City (2013) for second all time. Muskegon Orchard View (1999) holds the record of 774.
“We look at points scored and points allowed too much,” Mensing said. “It’s much more about the flow of the game. The objective is to win.
“I coached less defense this year that I have in the past five years. That may have the biggest reason why we played so well (defensively). I didn’t get in their way.”
No team got in Whiteford’s way this season.