By Dave Hart
WHITEHALL – It was quite the turnaround season for the Whitehall football team, despite the way it ended.
The Vikings, who finished the 2019 season with a 3-6 record, got back into the playoffs this year with a vastly improved 5-1 regular season mark. Their only loss was in double overtime against unbeaten Montague.
Whitehall cruised past Fruitport in its first playoff game, but then struggled last week in the first half against Coopersville before pulling away in the second half.
The Vikings again struggled on Friday, and this time they weren’t able to recover, falling to Forest Hills Eastern 41-13 in a Division 4 district final contest at Whitehall High School.
Whitehall ended with a 7-2 record. Forest Hills Eastern now moves on to regionals to play the winner of the Sault Ste. Marie-Cadillac game.
“Forest Hills went out and played an excellent football game,” said Whitehall coach Tony Sigmon. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times with miscues. They made plays and we didn’t.
“We had a solid regular season, for sure, and it’s something that these kids can eventually reflect on as a positive.”
Forest Hills Eastern took advantage of a bad snap on a punt on Whitehall’s first possession, which resulted in the Hawks having the ball inside the Viking five-yard line of their opening drive.
Ethan Johns scored on a two-yard run, and the extra point gave Forest Hills Eastern a 7-0 lead with 9:09 left in the first quarter.
Whitehall tied the game 7-7 early in the second after Max Brown recovered a fumble on a punt return at the Eastern 15-yard line.
Alec Pruett scored on a 15-yard run on the next play with 10:17 left in the second quarter.
The Hawks responded on their next possession with a 22-yard touchdown run by Kevin Sprague with 6:47 left to take a 13-7 lead.
Forest Hills Eastern closed the first half scoring with 1:39 remaining on a six-yard scamper from Bryson Kuzdzal, and led 20-7 at halftime.
The Hawks kept their momentum during the third quarter, scoring on a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cal Doyle to Grant Lancaster to take a 27-7 lead..
The Vikings finally ended their scoring drought with a 29-yard run by Kris Dowdell with 7:17 left in the third quarter to cut their deficit to 27-13.
Forest Hills Eastern closed out the scoring with a four-yard touchdown run by Jacob Armbrester with 42 seconds left in the third, and a 30-yard pick-six by Caden Vanden Berge with 4:18 left in the game.
The Vikings were led offensively by quarterback Andrew Durbin, who threw for 139 yards on 12-for-26 passing. Brodie Fogus caught seven passes for 92 yards while Pruett rushed for 115 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.