By Frank Vajcner
The matchup that many have been clamoring for in Division 8 will happen at Adrian College’s Docken Stadium (Saturday, 1 pm), as the Whiteford Bobcats (11-1) take on the Hudson Tigers (12-0).
Hudson Tigers (12-0, LCAA)
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Def. Reading 22-0 in District Semis
Def. Addison 22-6 in District Final
Def. White Pigeon 8-0 in Regional
Dan Rogers has the Tigers back on the map in his second season after taking over for the legendary Chris Luma. The Tigers are back in the semifinal for the first time since 2011, and seventh time in school history.
Hudson averages 32.8 points per game out of the full house T offense. Running the football is how the Tigers will make hay, as they average 304 rushing yards per game. Leading the ground attack is Nick Kopin (218 carries, 1397 yards, 16 TDs). Joining Kopin in the backfield are Brendan Akers (179 carries, 856 yards, 12 TDs) and Bronson Marry (76 carries, 509 yards, 7 TDs) as the primary ball carriers.
The strong rushing attack has made life fairly easy for QB Anthony Arredondo (25-for-42, 372 yards, 4 TDs). Arredondo’s primary target when throwing the ball is TE Ambrose Horwath (19 catches, 308 yards, 5 TDs).
Defensively, the Tigers give up a stingy 5.8 points per game (yes, you read that right) with 7 shutouts. Leading the way are DL Cam Kimble (74 tackles, 3 TFL, sack) and Ethan Harris (47 tackles, 5 TFL, sack), LB Payton Rogers, (87 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 interceptions), and DB Bronson Marry (47 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 interceptions). Horwath also has 3 interceptions on defense.
Coach’s Comment: Whiteford is a well-coached physical football team with athletes that can score at any time. It will be a great atmosphere and should be a great high school football game. We are excited for the opportunity to play in the state semifinals.
Whiteford Bobcats (11-1, TCC)
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Def. Summerfield 42-0 in District Semis
Def. Sand Creek 54-14 in District Final
Def. Clarkston Everest Collegiate 38-12 in Regional
The Bobcats are making their fourth semifinal appearance, and first since their State Championship in 2017. All four appearances have come under head coach Jason Mensing.
Whiteford comes in with the top scoring offense in Division 8 at 50.5 points per game. Whiteford will utilize multiple formations on offense, but their bread and butter is the double wing. Junior QB Shea Ruddy is dangerous as a passer (60-110, 1184 passing yards, 15 TDs) and a runner (74 carries, 659 yards, 8 TDs). He has been the leading rusher in all three playoff games for the Bobcats.
Senior RB Cole Giesege leads Whiteford in rushing (148 carries, 1241 yards, 21 TDs) and receiving (15 catches, 337 yards, 5 TDs), and has made a strong case for Offensive Player of the Year. Junior RB Drew Knaggs (100 carries, 653 yards, 12 TDs) has come alive in the latter part of the season. Jake Iott (97 carries, 568 yards, 9 TDs) and Luis Trejo (64 carries, 430 yards, 6 TDs) have also been productive running the ball.
Senior TE Jack Andrews (15 catches, 263 yards, 4 TDs) has also been a favorite target of Ruddy.
The Bobcats’ offensive line, led by senior LT and two-time All-Stater Noah Bauman, has helped the offense average 7.5 yards per play. Bauman is joined on the line by RT Jack Iott, center Kyle Gray, and guards Shane Suchora and Brayden Luse.
Defensively, Whiteford has allowed 19.8 points per game, but since giving up 40 in a win over Kalamazoo Loy Norrix in Week 7, they have allowed 58 points with two shutouts. Bauman (13 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) anchors the defensive line. Iott leads the team in tackles at linebacker with 67, while the secondary features Giesege (29 solo tackles, 8 PBUs, interception return for TD), Hunter DeBarr (28 tackles, 9 PBUs, 3 interceptions), and the two of the Ruddy brothers, Shea (10 PBUs, 2 interceptions) and Ryin (38 solo tackles, 17 PBUs, 2 interceptions).
Giesege is also a dangerous kick returner, with two kickoff returns for touchdown.
Coach’s Comment: It is a tremendous blessing for us to be able to play Hudson at Adrian College. Hudson has a great tradition and football team and is the top rated team in our division. We can’t wait for a great atmosphere vs a great opponent.
Frank: I know I have billed this as the de facto state championship game, but in reality, this is the irresistible force (Whiteford offense) meeting the immovable object (Hudson defense). Having officiated both of these teams, I can also say that anyone who watches this game on Saturday will get their money’s worth. Get your popcorn ready for what will be showdown for the ages. Pick: Hudson 24 Whiteford 22
Gary: Great game between two great programs. The winner of this game, to me, will be the favorite to win it all. Pick: Hudson 26 Whiteford 25
Chris: This should be a great game between two very well coached teams. Whiteford has a high flying offense while Hudson has a great defense. But will those be the difference in the game? This could come down to the question of, is Hudson’s offense better than Whiteford’s defense? This late in the season I would normally pick the best defense, but I have a hunch on Whiteford being able to score just enough. Pick: Whiteford 26 Hudson 22. For the record, I will take Ubly in the State Championship over whoever wins this game.