By Dave Hart

WHITEHALL- It’s quite an accomplishment to make the high school football state playoffs for five consecutive seasons, especially when playing in a tough West Michigan Conference.

The Whitehall football squad managed to achieve that goal after defeating North Muskegon 47-21 on Friday at home.

The Vikings are now 6-2 on the season and will finish the regular season on the road against Dexter next Friday, before playing in pre-districts the following week.

North Muskegon fell to 4-4 on the season and will need to beat Orchard View next Friday, and get some help, to gain a playoff spot as a bubble team.

“I was very happy about what we did tonight,” said Whitehall coach Tony Sigmon. “We stressed to our kids about the importance of this game, because it’s for the automatic playoff bid and it was our last home game.”

Terrell Harris rushes the ball for Whitehall as teammate No. 10 Kayleb Venema leads the way. Photo/Kris Rake

The Vikings struck first on their first possession on a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Gavin Schaeffer.

Whitehall increased its lead to 14-0 after recovering a fumble on the Norse five-yard line following a bad snap on a punt. The Vikings reached the end zone on their second play after the recovery with a seven-yard scamper by Kayleb Venema.

The Norse finally responded with 5:41 left in the opening quarter with a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mack Young to Jesse Cooke to cut the deficit to 14-7.

North Muskegon tied the game 14-14 with a 20-yard connection from Young to Cooke with 1:02 remaining in the first frame.

The Vikings quickly responded with an 85-yard kickoff return touchdown by Terrell Harris, giving Whitehall a 21-14 lead after the first quarter.

Venema scored from four yards out just 16 seconds before halftime, and the Vikings went to halftime with a 27-14 edge.

Venema added another score from four yards out with five minutes left in the third quarter to increase Whitehall’s advantage to 33-14.

Chandler Edwards carries the ball for North Muskegon with No. 52 Caleb Rypstra looking to block. Photo/Kris Rake

The Norse cut their deficit to 33-21 on the next play with a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown by TJ McKenzie.

But the Vikings struck back with 50 seconds left in the third quarter when Allen Powers recovered a fumble in the end zone during a sack attempt, and Whitehall led 40-21.

Whitehall closed out the scoring with 8:19 left in the fourth quarter on a one-yard run by Venema.

Venema paced the Vikings with 152 yards rushing on 16 carries and four touchdowns while Harris added 100 yards from the ground on 12 attempts. Schaeffer was 4-for-7 passing with 51 yards.

“We can’t turn the ball over against a good team,” said North Muskegon coach Larry Witham, whose team had five turnovers on downs and lost two fumbles, both inside its own 10-yard line. “We didn’t execute well enough on offense and we didn’t play well enough to win. We will get back to work on Monday and take on Orchard View, then hope we can sneak into the playoffs in Division 7.”

The Norse were led by Young, who completed 18-for-42 pass attempts for 213 yards and two touchdowns. McKenzie caught five passes for 82 yards, John Hayhurst had three receptions for 61 yards and Cooke grabbed three passes for 40 yards.