By Lucas Rains
Local Sports Journal
BYRON CENTER – The Whitehall Vikings entered the 2014 football season fresh off a 1-8 record the year before and only five returning seniors.
Unfortunately their great season came to a painful end Friday with a 49-14 loss to Grand Rapids South Christian in a Division 4 regional matchup at Byron Center High School.
The Sailors, led by Western Michigan University commit Jon Wassink at quarterback, proved to be the better team on a cold, snowy night.
“These kids had a remarkable season, I’m proud of them and I love them,” Whitehall head coach Tony Sigmon said after the game. “This one stings right now, but I think as the weeks and months go by, we’re going to find ourselves looking at that trophy that says district champions on it.”
South Christian advances to the Division 4 state semifinals next Saturday against Edwardsburg.
“Against a team like that, we made a lot of mistakes and you can’t do that,” Sigmon said. “They’re bigger, faster and stronger than us. Right now, we have a lot of underclassmen. The seniors that we have are great, but quite honestly, when you get this far, it’s going to be the senior-dominated teams that win.”
Wassink threw for 175 yards and a score and ran for another 178 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Veenstra had three catches for 97 yards and Jake Wierenga had seven grabs for 57 yards for South Christian.
The Sailors got the scoring started when Wassink ran 64 yards on a read option play for a touchdown with 7:33 left in the opening quarter.
Whitehall tied the score 7-7 later in the quarter after recovering a muffed punt at the South Christian 36. Quarterback Zarren Aylor completed a pass to Keenan Aylor at the Sailor 2-yard line, then Juwan Britton scored for the Vikings from a yard out.
South Christian wasted little time responding when Wassink hit Veenstra on the first play of the following drive for a 64-yard touchdown.
The Sailors followed with a 62-yard scoring drive, capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by Geff Plasman with 7:40 left in the first half.
Whitehall drove to the South Christian five on its next possession, but lost the ball on a mishandled handoff to end the threat.
Wassink took advantage of the turnover by gaining a first down with a fake punt, then bolting 82 yards for a touchdown that gave the Sailors a 28-7 lead with two minutes left in the half.
Plasman tacked on another score on a four-yard run with 43 seconds left, expanding South Christian’s lead to 35-7 at halftime.
Things went from bad to worse for Whitehall in the third quarter.
The Vikings fumbled deep in their own end, and Sailor Nick Bosch recovered the ball in the end zone, expanding South Christian’s lead to 42-7.
South Christian followed with an interception, then Plasman scored his third touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run. South Christian led 49-7 with four minutes to go in the third.
Whitehall’s Trip Thommen scored on a 76-yard run late in the game to wrap up his successful high school football career.
Whitehall was led offensively by Thommen, who ran for 107 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Zarren Aylor threw for 98 yards and Keenan Aylor had three catches for 51 yards.