Whiteford Bobcats 2022 Team Preview

By Frank Vajcner

2022 will be the dawn of a new era for Whiteford on the gridiron after Jason Mensing left to take the head coaching job at Westland John Glenn. During his time in Ottawa Lake, the Bobcats won a State Championship, made two State Finals appearances, four Semifinal appearances, and made the playoffs in all ten of Mensing’s seasons in charge. Todd Thieken, who has served as defensive coordinator, will guide the ship for the Cats, who return plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, as 24 letter winners are back.

Head Coach: Todd Thieken (first season)

Assistant Coaches: Ben Avis, Bob Ondrovick, Jason Vida, Tony Dupree, TJ Thieken, Nate Bauman, Phil Bauman, John Nagle, Ray Paige

Offense: The Bobcats’ double wing offense was very explosive last season, and still should be despite losing two all-staters in LT Noah Bauman and RB Cole Giesege. At QB, senior Shea Ruddy returns for his fourth season as the starter. Ruddy put together a first-team all-TCC and all-state season as a junior with 1353 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, as well as 786 yards on the ground. Younger brother Ryin Ruddy, a junior, will replace Jack Andrews at TE, and figures to be the elder Ruddy’s favorite target. 

A big question is who will replace the production of Giesege. Junior RBs Jake Iott (581 rushing yards, 11 TDs) and Drew Knaggs, who came on strong late in the season, will get opportunities to carry the ball. Thieken also mentioned Stepan Masserant, whom he described as the fastest player on the team, as a player to watch in the backfield. Junior Hunter DeBarr also figures to be in the mix as a runner and a receiver.

The offensive line returns four starters, headlined by senior guards Shane Suchora and Braden Luse, whom Thieken called “tenacious blockers with a desire to finish every play to the whistle.”

Kyle Gray returns at center, while Jack Iott (Jake’s twin brother) and Owen Knaggs will fill out the rest of the offensive line.

Defense: Jake Iott and Drew Knaggs will be the heart and soul of the Bobcats’ 4-2-5 scheme at linebacker, with Iott coming off of an all-TCC season where he had 104 tackles, 7 TFLs, and four sacks. The line will have plenty of firepower returning, led by DE Seamus Waterford (36 tackles, 8 TFLs, six sacks), NG Suchora, and DT Owen Knaggs.

Thieken called the secondary a veteran group, led by both Ruddy brothers, DeBarr, and Kolby Masserant.

Coach’s Outlook: The last two years we have been a very young team.  However, the experience those young kids gained as now they mature into juniors and seniors is going to be invaluable to our season, especially as we go into a very tough non-league schedule to start our first 3 games. The strength of our team on offense goes through our veteran offensive line and 3 year starting QB, Shea Ruddy. On defense we have a very veteran group and our new starters saw considerable playing time in 2021. Our potential for the season will rely heavily on our ability to improve each week and eliminate some of the mistakes that have cost us the last two years. Our kids have worked extremely hard since losing the Hudson game last year and are very excited to get back to playing on Friday nights.

FNV Outlook: Even with big shoes to fill at certain spots, it appears that the Bobcats are well equipped to be playing deep into November. Early tests at Ida and against Detroit Loyola will be a good barometer for the Cats. A Week 6 trip to Sand Creek could be tricky too.

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