OTTAWA LAKE — The big stage brought out the best in the Whiteford Bobcat stars Saturday afternoon.
Whiteford rolled to a 60-20 win against Clarkston Everest Collegiate to win its third consecutive Division 8 regional championship behind some big-time performances.
Logan Murphy had 173 yards rushing and two touchdowns, plus two key sacks on defense.
Whiteford running back Logan Murphy hurdles Clarkston Everest’s Giovanni Mastromatteo on Saturday in Ottawa Lake, Mich. Murphy had 173 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Thomas Eitniear completed four passes for 144 yards and a touchdown pass.
Zach Bertz carried the ball just twice but had 57 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
And the Whiteford offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage — to the tune of 369 yards rushing for an average of 8.4 yards per carry for the 12-0 Bobcats.
“Your best players make big plays in big games,” Whiteford coach Jason Mensing said. “Certainly we had that today.”
Everest Collegiate, playing in its first Regional final, used an adept passing attack to stay close early. Whiteford used a turnover to set up its first touchdown — a 2-yard run by Nate Bauman — but the Mountaineers came back with a touchdown pass from senior Grant Burgess to Simon Fenske and tied the score at 8.
Whiteford scored on its next drive, this time a 2-yard run by Hunter Lake, and Murphy converted another conversion as Whiteford went up 16-8.
Everest finished an eight-play, 77-yard drive to cut it to 16-14 late in the first quarter, then recovered an onside kick to set up another scoring chance. A Fenske field goal missed the mark, however, and the Bobcats took over.
“We were right there,” Everest Collegiate coach Michael Pruchnicki said. “We had the opportunity to take the lead, but the momentum shifted. You give them a step and they take a mile. They did a good job.”
The Bobcats went on to score the next six touchdowns, building a 40-14 halftime lead and going up 60-14 before the Mountaineers found the end zone with 25 seconds left during a running clock situation.
During that stretch, Murphy scored on runs of 17 and 24 yards, Eitniear found brother Ty Eitniear on a 62-yard scoring strike, Bertz scored on runs of 13 and 44, and Jacob Kahn found the end zone on his first varsity rushing attempt.
Burgess completed 21 passes for 307 yards against the Bobcat defense. But the Mountaineers ran for just 14 yards on 24 attempts and finished with 23 incompletions.
“We made some adjustments in coverage,” Mensing said. “Those adjustments helped us. Early in the game they were converting on some fourth downs and things like that. It’s hard to do that all game long. Even when they were doing that, I felt we were in a pretty good position.”
Juniors Murphy and Bertz are running behind a solid offensive line that includes center Jacob Lewis, guards Jordan Book and Alex Kohler, and tackles Jarret Atherton and Lucas Tesznar. The Bobcats have gone 35-4 since the start of the 2015 season.
“We’ve got five kids in there, plus tight end Matthew Taylor, who’ve played a lot of football together,” Mensing said. “For some of them, next week will be 27 games that they’ve started together. A lot of what we do is timing, and spacing, and having things coming together at the right time. With the amount of reps that they have done together, I think that has had an impact.”
Murphy, who topped 1,500 yards rushing this year, praised the line. “They open up the biggest holes,” he said. “As a running back, that’s all you can ask for.”
The Bobcats will play Mendon next weekend in the Division 8 semifinals. They are one win away from a second consecutive state finals appearance at Ford Field in Detroit.
“They present a completely different challenge,” Mensing said of 12-0 Mendon. “They are a power, physical football team. They’ve won 12 state titles. They’ve been there and know how it feels.”
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