By Mitch Ashcraft
WHITEHALL – On October 15, 1999, the Whitehall football team defeated Oakridge 27-8.
Since then Oakridge has been dominating the series, winning 17 straight games against the Vikings.
But that streak finally ended on Friday when Whitehall overcame an early deficit, then broke loose for a convincing 28-14 victory over the Eagles in a key West Michigan Conference matchup on its home field.
Whitehall head coach Tony Sigmon was ecstatic about the big win, but does not want to celebrate just yet.
“This is one of those wins that we can celebrate in November or December,” said Sigmon, the fifth-year head coach. “We have a tough schedule and if we can survive it, we are one heck of a football team.”
The Vikings running attack was key to the victory.
While Quarterback Justin Brown and halfback Tylor Russell each found the end zone, Josh Thommen was the featured back on Friday night
He finished the night with 115 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.
Sigmon, who team improved to 3-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play, said Thommen has been producing all season, but his stats have not reflected it.
“He has done a remarkable job all season for us, but for most of the season we have had a lot of short fields to work with, so his stats have not been as glamorous as they should be,” Sigmon said. “He has been working extremely hard.”
Oakridge jumped out to a quick lead on a 56-yard touchdown run by Alex Shoop on the second play from scrimmage. The PAT kick gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
Whitehall answered on its first possession with a touchdown drive. Thommen found the end zone from 12 yards out, but the extra point snap was mishandled, leaving Oakridge with a 7-6 lead that held up through the first quarter.
After an Oakridge punt early in the second quarter, the Eagles were flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty, which allowed Whitehall start its possession on the Oakridge 36-yard line.
A few plays later Thommen scored again, this time from 24 yards out. Brown rushed in the two-point conversation attempt to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead with 6:30 left in the first half.
The Whitehall defense forced an Oakridge three-and-out with four minutes left in the second quarter.
The Vikings then embarked on an eight-play, 80 yard drive that was capped by a Russell 21-yard touchdown run.
Whitehall took a 21-7 lead into the half.
Midway through the third quarter, Brown scrambled 21 yards to the end zone to give the Vikings a commanding 28-7 lead.
Most of the fourth quarter consisted of Oakridge going on a 20-play, 80-yard drive that finished with quarterback Koleman Wall connecting with Adam Meyers for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Brown finished with 12 carries for 88 yards for Whitehall, while Russell had 12 carries for 42 yards.
Shoop was Oakridge’s leading rusher with 69 yards on four carries.
The Vikings will host Montague next week in a huge conference showdown.
“We always have a good week of practice leading up to the game against Montague,” Sigmon said.
Oakridge, which falls to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play, will host Ravenna next week.