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.

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 27, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.