Johnson, Giddings-Whatley lead Thurston to district final win over Divine Child
Redford – The backfield combination of Chris Johnson and Laymon Giddings-Whatley that helped put Redford Thurston in the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years came through once again Saturday afternoon.
The senior duo accounted for five touchdown runs as the Eagles (8-3) captured their first Division 3 district championship since 2010 in a 37-17 win over visiting Dearborn Divine Child.
Saturday’s win also marked just the second time in program history that Redford Thurston has won a district title.
“Laymon is a tough runner, and he and Chris (Johnson) make a nice one-two punch,” Redford Thurston coach Bob Snell said. “Laymon goes both ways for us, but he’s so powerful that he can turn the corner and get his legs going. Laymon is a solid weapon for us and I thought he made very smart runs. He made a scoring run on the 2-yard line where we didn’t block anyone and he took care of it all himself. It’s that type of run that we need coming from him as a running back force.”
With the game tied at 10-10 midway through the third quarter, Giddings-Whatley, who finished with 12 carries for 63 yards, scored his second of four touchdowns on the afternoon on a 9-yard run with 1:03 remaining before the fourth. Following a missed extra point, the Eagles carried a 16-10 lead into the final quarter.
Giddings-Whatley put the Eagles up by two scores with 9:40 to go in the game on a 17-yard run on first down, one play following a 65-yard catch and run down the sideline by Alonzo McCoy from quarterback Travis Wesenberg. The two-point conversion on a pass from McCoy to Dionte Jones gave Redford Thurston a 24-10 lead.
“We try to be balanced, but with the wind it was kind of tough. And frankly, their secondary made some outstanding plays in the second half to knock balls down,” Snell said. “Sometimes it takes the linemen a little while to get going, but with our power running game out of the spread, we were able to get things going in the second half.”
After a Divine Child touchdown on a 13-yard pass from Jimmy Seewald to Shane Fugate with 8:08 remaining cut the Redford Thurston lead down to a touchdown, Giddings-Whatley and Johnson sealed the game off with a pair of 2-yard run scoring runs.
The Falcons had the upper hand earlier in the game and cracked the scoreboard first with a field goal from Brent Rodden with 3:12 remaining in the first quarter. Redford Thurston countered with a Kobe Williams field goal early in the second quarter and took a 10-3 lead with a 1-yard scamper from Giddings-Whatley on fourth-and-goal with 4:11 left before the half.
Divine Child tied the game with 33 seconds left in the first half on a 16-yard run by Collin Goslin, as both teams struggled to gain offensive footing in the opening 24 minutes.
“They had us off balance in the first half and they were executing their offense very well,” Snell said. “We had a little bit of a concern at halftime that we needed to get our offense in gear. We knew that they were going to run the ball on us in the second half, but the important thing for us was to get some points on the board. Our kids responded really well, though, especially on the offensive line.
“I thought we not only ran the ball effectively in the second half but protected well, too. We had a lot of pressure coming to us on those third-down routes, so our offensive line did an outstanding job.”
Wesenberg, who threw for just 18 yards in the first half, finished with 153 yards on 11-of-20 passing. Johnson finished the game with 16 rushes for 60 yards.
Goslin led the Falcons (7-4) on the ground with 12 carries for 43 yards, while Seewald was 15-of-32 for 248 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Redford Thurston will travel to New Boston Huron (10-1) next week for a regional final. The Chiefs handed Trenton a 44-27 loss Friday night.