CADILLAC — Emotions were flying high and so were penalty flags Friday night in a Division 4 district football final between Whitehall and host Cadillac.
In a game featuring more than 200 yards of penalties, a few untimely flags tripped up Whitehall in a 24-14 loss to Cadillac.
“I feel like every time we had a first down, all of a sudden it was like, ‘Bam! Holding, holding, holding,'” said Whitehall coach Tony Sigmon, whose squad finishes the season with an 8-3 record. “That’s really uncharacteristic for us. That’s never really happened before, so I guess I need to look at the film and be a better coach on that. There was a lot of penalties tonight, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”
Whitehall was penalized 14 times for 130 yards, while Cadillac was hit with nine flags for 95 yards.
Cadillac (9-2) will hit the road next week for a regional finals matchup against powerhouse Hudsonville Unity Christian (11-0), which put on an offensive clinic in a 79-21 district-title victory over Grand Rapids Christian.
Photos by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark
The penalty road block seemed to linger over Whitehall throughout the entire game. After Cadillac kicked a field goal on the opening drive of the contest, Whitehall marched down the field and completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to senior Red Watson. That play was called back, however, on a holding penalty. On the very next play, sophomore quarterback Kyle Stratton was sacked and the visiting Vikings were forced to punt.
Cadillac capitalized on the momentum swing and scored two straight TDs to take an early 17-0 lead, the first on a 2-yard run by Caleb McKinley and second on a 4-yard reception by Derek Rood.
Whitehall managed to get on the board before halftime on a 4-yard scoring run by senior standout Alec Pruett, cutting the Vikings’ deficit to 17-7 and giving them hope for the second half.
“We wanted to make a couple quick adjustments and we felt like we had it kind of figured out as far as what we needed to do schematically,” Sigmon said about halftime adjustments. “We made those adjustments and our kids came out and battled their hearts out in the second half.”
Whitehall got the ball to start the second half and cashed in. Junior Nate Bolley scored on a 5-yard run on a sweep along the sideline a little more than four minutes into the third quarter. Suddenly, it was a 17-14 ballgame.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Whitehall was trying to convert on a fourth-down opportunity, but the Vikings were hit with a delay-of-game penalty. Once again, Cadillac responded, converting a 27-yard TD run by McKinley to give the host Vikings a 24-14 lead with 4:20 left.
Whitehall tried to cut into the deficit, but the Vikings missed a field-goal attempt with 2:36 remaining.
It was just one of those nights for the visiting Vikings, who earned a share of the West Michigan Conference title for the first time since 1999. Whitehall was seeking its first district championship since 2014.
Stratton finished 8-of-15 passing for 87 yards. He led Whitehall in rushing with 95 yards on 13 carries.
Pruett saw his impressive streak of 10 straight 100-yard rushing games end, as he finished with 62 yards on 18 carries.
Senior linebacker Nick Blanchard paced Whitehall defensively with eight tackles, while senior safety Max Brown notched 7 1/2 stops and junior linebacker Jackson Cook had seven tackles.
Carter Harsh paced a balanced Cadillac rushing attack with 84 yards on six attempts. Gurden had 78 yards on 14 carries, while McKinley finished with 64 on 13 attempts.
Cadillac outrushed Whitehall, 291-225.
It was a memorable season for Whitehall, highlighted by a 34-14 “Battle for the Bell” victory over rival Montague to earn a share of the conference title and take the bell back for the first time in seven years. The Vikings also posted an impressive 40-20 first-round playoff win at Sparta.
The future looks bright for Whitehall, even though this season ended on a bit of a sour note.
“They battled hard,” Sigmon said about his team’s emotional team loss. “It felt like every time we had a good play, something weird happened — something crazy.”
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