Whiteford Completes Championship Climb

December 15, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Ottawa Lake Whiteford football had been building toward this.

Coach Jason Mensing took over a program in 2012 that had gone 4-5 the previous fall, and immediately the Bobcats doubled their wins to finish 8-2. Next came seasons of 9-3, 7-4, 10-3 and program’s first MHSAA Semifinal in 2015, and 13-1 with its only loss in the Division 8 championship game a year ago. 

And yet, for the bulk of this season Whiteford still had to look up at a few others, relatively speaking. Reigning champion Muskegon Catholic Central was most people’s favorite to win the division again – until the Crusaders lost their District Final to Mendon, which became the new favorite.

Meanwhile, Whiteford – the MHSAA/Applebee’s Team of the Month for November – bided its time until receiving its opportunity to make history. The Bobcats made the loudest statement with a 50-21 win over Mendon in their Semifinal on Nov. 17, and then assumed the top spot in Division 8 for the first time with a 42-21 championship game win over Saginaw Nouvel on Nov. 24 at Ford Field.

The Bobcats moving forward will still be looking up – but now at a championship banner to be hung and at a goal that certainly will seem more attainable now that they’ve achieved it for the first time.

“My hope is all the boys within our community and school see it and want to accomplish that for themselves,” said Mensing, also the school’s athletic director. “Obviously, it’s not realistic that it’s going to happen every year. But that aspiration for greatness and success … the idea that I can accomplish this, the idea I want this and I’m going to strive for it. Wherever you end up matters less (than) the pursuit of excellence.”

Whiteford pursued and attained excellence and dominance this fall on the way to a 14-0 record, starting with an offense that scored 737 points – tied for second most in MHSAA history, and an average of 52.6 per game.

Tri-County Conference rival Petersburg-Summerfield came within 16 points of catching the Bobcats in the District Final, Whiteford’s closest game of the entire fall as they won on average by nearly 40 points. During the playoffs alone, Whiteford outscored five opponents by an average of 50-18.

The Bobcats had fallen in the 2016 title game 35-6 to Muskegon Catholic Central, but certainly benefited from that first-time experience. Mensing sensed his team’s calm this time around, but also praised his players and coaches for staying focused week in and week out on improving and paying attention to details – no small tasks when everyone knew early on that Whiteford should be in the championship mix.

To win it all, teams generally must have size and speed, and Whiteford certainly had both, even as a school with roughly 240 students – but with nearly 50 on the roster for the championship game.

Let’s start with size. Senior Lucas Tesznar (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) set the tone up front offensively and senior Jarret Atherton (6-1, 255) was an all-stater on both sides for the ball. Junior DeShaun Williams (6-5, 280) was an all-leaguer on defense.

Speed and skill? Senior quarterback Thomas Eitniear and junior running back Logan Murphy keyed a dynamic backfield – Eitniear throwing for 1,403 yards and 17 touchdowns and running for 919 yards more, while Murphy ran for 1,873 yards. Together they combined to set eight school records including Murphy’s for yards gained on the ground. Junior Braden Clark-Gilmore added another school record with 10 receiving touchdowns.

On a defense that gave up only 206 yards of offense and 13 points per game, junior Ty Eitniear set a school record with seven interceptions. Senior lineman Matthew Taylor, senior linebacker Eli Shelton and junior defensive backs Hunter Lake and Zack Bertz joined Atherton as all-state picks on that side of the ball.

Total, eight players secured some level of all-state recognition and 13 Bobcats earned first-team honors in the Tri-County Conference.

The Bobcats are turning their attention to other sports this school year and a future in football without 14 hard-working seniors who will graduate in the spring. But the memories of this fall surely will be lasting, even as the program is poised to continue making runs at top finishes.

“There have been a lot of well wishes, to our kids and our staff, and the school as a whole,” Mensing said. “There are so many people who invest in a football program at all schools, let alone one getting that deep into the playoffs. All of those people who have invested and worked at it have some pride and sense of accomplishment.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2017-18
October: Beaverton volleyball - Report
Shepherd girls golf - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Ottawa Lake Whiteford raises its Division 8 championship trophy at Ford Field last month. (Middle) Senior Eli Shelton leads the Bobcats onto the field.

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.