By Nate Thompson
The Vikings entered the Division 4 postseason field a year ago somewhat under the radar with a 7-2 record. But after registering two impressive wins in the playoffs, over Spring Lake and Comstock Park, they were the talk of the town.
Thoughts of Whitehall’s thrilling 41-36 comeback triumph over Comstock Park in the district finals – in which the Vikings trailed by as many as 23 points in the first half – still brings a smile to the face of senior Nolan Throne.
“That’s probably the best memory I’ve had playing here,” Throne said. “We stopped them on fourth-and-goal in the last 35 seconds, then took over on offense. It was just a great feeling realizing what we’d accomplished in that game.
“(The community support) throughout it all was insane,” he added.
Throne, the Vikings’ electric 5-foot-11, 160-pound slot receiver and defensive back, would love to relive the playoff experience one more time this fall.
But to do that, the Vikings will have to beat Grant on Friday to gain their sixth win and qualify for the postseason.
Those types of games seem to bring out the best in Throne. Two weeks ago against Ravenna, in the first of three straight “win or miss the playoffs” games, he racked up 123 combined yards in rushing and receiving and 156 yards in kick returns.
Throne says the entire team knows what it will take to get past Grant, get hot in the playoffs and ignite the Whitehall fan base again.
“We have about five three-year starters this year, so we’re a little more seasoned,” he said. “Last year, we had none.
“But the key for us is what coach (Tony Sigmon) is always saying. There are three aspects to successful teams and that’s offense, defense and special teams. We haven’t played a complete game yet. If we take care of business in all three sides of the game, we’ve got a good shot.”
Whitehall’s 5-3 record so far this season is a little bit deceiving. Their losses have come against undefeated Traverse City Central, undefeated Montague and two-loss Oakridge.
“In our losses last year, I think we lost by about a combined 60 points,” Sigmon said. “This year, it’s been decided by one or two possessions. There’s been a lot of growth.
“There’s a lot of seniors on this squad who have overcome a lot of adversity,” he added. “That all started in their sophomore year when we went 1-8.”
Sigmon said Throne is one senior who “fully bought in” from the beginning and helped turn the program around.
“He’s a big fixture of that turnaround,” Sigmon said. “He’s been very good in the slot, a key to our passing game, but I think he’s been even better on defense, at defensive back. Teams just haven’t thrown at him a lot, mostly because they respect what he’s capable of doing.”
Throne’s statistics this year prove his all-around value. He has 24 catches for 397 yards, 256 yards rushing, 300 yards in kick returns and seven touchdowns.
With Throne, dual threat quarterback Zarren Aylor, speedy tailback Jwan Britton and dangerous wideout Keenan Aylor, the Vikings offense has been explosive. They’ve scored 40 or more points five times this season.
Throne, who started playing football in the third grade and has been a fan of Whitehall varsity football for nearly as long, said he’s cherished his final season in the Vikings’ Red & White.
“I’ve enjoyed every moment,” he said. “We’ve had some ups and downs, but I like to think that we’ve come through it stronger as a team.”