Oakridge squeezes past Whitehall 27-26, takes over first place in conference

By Ron Rop
LocalSportsJournal.com

EGELSTON TOWNSHIP – On a rain-soaked stage at Oakridge High School, the host Eagles and the visiting Whitehall Vikings put on quite a show on Friday night.LSJ Logo incert

Back and forth they went for four quarters, and when the final buzzer sounded, the Eagles ran off with not only a 27-26 victory, but sole possession of first place in the West Michigan Conference.Sport Clips 2016 football ad

They gained the top spot in the league with their victory and North Muskegon’s upset of previously undefeated Montague.

Oakridge is now 5-1 overall and 5-0 in league play. Whitehall dropped to 4-2 overall, 3-2 in the league.

“We knew (Whitehall was) going to give it all they had after losing to Montague last week, and they were looking to rebound,” said Eagles coach Cary Harger. “We told our kids, this is our second game this year at home. We have home field, we have a conference race, playoff implications, Homecoming, so there was a whole list of things that were motivators.”

Both teams enjoyed leads during the game and there were several ties, but the Eagles had just enough to escape with the hard-fought victory.

Blake Masterman winces in pain as he is taken down by Whitehalls No. 35 Kainan Grant. Photo/Leo Valdez

Blake Masterman winces in pain as he is taken down by Whitehalls No. 35 Kainan Grant. Photo/Leo Valdez

Oakridge led 7-6 after one quarter. The game was tied 14-14 at halftime, and Whitehall grabbed a 20-14 lead in the third quarter.

But Oakridge scored twice in the third quarter to take a 27-20 lead. Whitehall had the only points in the fourth quarter, but fell just short.

The winning touchdown came in the last minute of the third quarter, just seconds after the Eagles had tied the game at 20-20 on a touchdown pass from Brady Luttrull to Marcus Stewart that covered 31 yards.

The ensuing kickoff, a line drive off the foot of Oakridge kicker Greg Garcia, hit a Viking and bounced high into the air. Eagle Leroy Quinn leaped for the loose ball and came down with it, and the Eagles had the ball back.

Two plays later, Luttrull turned in a highlight-reel touchdown run, Garcia added the extra point and Oakridge led 27-20.

Terrell Harris’ 13-yard scamper with 2:23 remaining in the game brought Whitehall to within 27-26. That’s when Vikings Coach Tony Sigmon made the decision to go for the 2-point conversion and the victory. The play was stopped short of the goal line.

“We lost by one point, we had a chance to go ahead and win it, we’re on the road, we’re at Oakridge so let’s go for the win,” said Sigmon. “To me, I thought it was a no-brainer.

JoJo Dowdell on the rush as No. 12 Kaleab Ehnen gets ready to make the Oakridge tackle. Photo/Leo Valdez

JoJo Dowdell on the rush as No. 12 Kaleab Ehnen gets ready to make the Oakridge tackle. Photo/Leo Valdez

“Tell you what, I wanted to go for the win. We have the kids to do it. They made a good play, so right now we have a game we have to play (next week) against Ravenna.”

The game showcased two talented quarterbacks – Brady Luttrull of Oakridge and Casey Huizenga of Whitehall.

Luttrull was the game’s leading rusher with 102 yards on 14 carries. The rainfall limited the passing game, but Luttrull completed 3-of-9 passes for 103 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown pass to Alex Shoop and a 31-yard scoring strike to Marcus Stewart. Luttrull also scored on a 7-yard run in the opening quarter and on a 32-yard run in the third quarter.

Huizenga, on the other hand, had four completions on 11 attempts for 42 yards. He rushed 15 times for 73 yards. He scored on runs of 2, 1 and 13 yards.

Harris accounted for Whitehall’s other touchdown on an 11-yard run in the third quarter.

Oakridge also had a 100-yard rusher in Blake Masterman, who ran 14 times for 102 yards. Defensively, the Eagles were led Marcus Stewart with 13 tackles and Masterman with 11.

JoJo Dowdell had a strong game in the backfield for Whitehall with 15 rushes for 77 yards. Harris finished with 71 yards on just nine carries.

On defense, Jared McCollom was all over the field for the Vikings and finished with 14 tackles. Derek McCollom and Dowdell also had interceptions.

“It was a great high school football game and we came out on the short end of it,” Sigmon said.

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