By Steve Eldridge
White Pigeon football coach Shawn Strawser was hoping that the fourth time would be the charm, as the Chiefs squared off against the defending state champion Whiteford Bobcats in the Division 8 playoffs Friday night. Whiteford had eliminated White Pigeon three years in a row, and this year was no different.
The Bobcats dominated the Chiefs, 54-6, to advance to the division semifinals. The win was their 26th consecutive victory, and they moved into the semifinals for the third season in a row.
Whiteford wasted no time, as they racked up 20 first-quarter points, while holding White Pigeon scoreless. The Chiefs did manage to get into Bobcat territory on the strength of a 47-yard run by Caleb Lane, but that drive ended at the 20-yard line. On the ensuing possession, it took five plays for Whiteford to cross the goal line, making the score 12-0. The Chiefs got the ball back, but turned it over on a fumble, with Mason DeBarr picking up the loose ball and taking it in from 38 yards out. When the dust had settled in the first half, the Bobcats held a commanding 35-0 lead.
“They’re a great football team, and they’ve got a great program there in Whiteford,” Strawser said. “We thought we had something going in the first quarter, but when you turn the ball over and it turns into 6 points, that hurts. We’re not a big play offense, and to get down early against a great team, that’s tough to come back from.”
The Bobcats would end up scoring on every possession. The Chiefs had only allowed 55 points all season, and Strawser added that “It was a new situation for us to get scored on like that.”
The Bobcats went on to score 19 more second half points, and the Chief’s Zachary Royce scored on the final play of the game from one yard out, making the final score 54-6. Caleb Lane, a major contributor on both offense and defense for White Pigeon this season, went down early with an injury, and never returned to the field. “He brought a balance this year on both sides of the ball, so we lost some of the physical play that Caleb added to our team,” Strawser added. “We needed to eliminate our mistakes, because when you play a team like Whiteford, there’s no room for error.”
Taylor Stewart led the Chief’s running attack, picking up 74 yards on 15 carries, while Jon Bontrager added 53 yards rushing, and Lane chipped in with 52 on the ground. Chaz Underwood led the White Pigeon defense with seven tackles.
White Pigeon ends its season with a very respectable 11-1 mark, while the Bobcats remained undefeated at 12-0.
“We didn’t give them our best, and they really put it on us, but I’ll tell you this. I’m very proud of this team, and very proud of our season. We had great support from the community, too,” Strawser said. “We’ll get back at it next season.”