By Tom Kendra

WHITEHALL – It took a super performance by a sophomore to bring “The Bell” back to Whitehall for the first time since 2014.

Sophomore quarterback Kyle Stratton put on a show for the first three quarters on Friday night – not with his arm, but with his legs – before the rest of his team kicked it in gear in the fourth quarter as the host Vikings pulled away for a 34-14 victory over archival Montague.

The game was tied 7-7 at halftime and 14-14 after three quarters, before Whitehall scored the final 20 points in the fourth quarter.

“I asked our kids at halftime: ‘Who’s going to break first?’” said ninth-year Whitehall coach Tony Sigmon. “In the past, we’ve been the ones to break first, but not this time.

“I’m just so proud of our kids right now.”

The victory also gave Whitehall a share of its first West Michigan Conference title since 1999, as the Vikings and Wildcats finished with identical 5-1 conference records. Oakridge held off a frantic rally by Ravenna on Friday to also finish 5-1 in the league and make it a three-way tie at the top.

It also ended a frustrating stretch for Whitehall against its rival, where Montague won six times in a row – including three times by three points or less.

Montague may have been able to make it seven straight if not for Stratton, who was the one player that Montague couldn’t stop. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound Stratton dropped back repeatedly looking to pass, found nothing, then took off with his combination of speed and open-field moves.

Stratton completed just 4-of-12 passes for 45 yards, but he did much more damage scrambling, finishing with 21 carries for 131 yards and three of his team’s five touchdowns.

“We really felt, coming in, that Kyle could be the X-factor,” said Sigmon, who has brought stability to the Whitehall football program in his tenure. “Talk about a kid who has grown up before our eyes this season.”

The defenses dominated the first half, which ended in a 7-7 tie. Stratton opened the scoring with a 20-yard run late in the first quarter, before Montague tied it on a 42-yard run by senior Dylan Everett with 4:09 left in the first half.

Both teams missed short field goals in the second quarter to leave the score deadlocked.

The game was still tied after the third, with Whitehall taking a 14-7 lead on a 5-yard run by Stratton, before the visitors knotted it on a 7-yard pass from Andrew Kooi to Tugg Nichols.

That set the stage for the pivotal fourth quarter, when the Whitehall offensive line appeared to wear down the Montague front, opening up just enough space for senior running back Alec Pruett and junior slotback Nate Bolley to do their thing.

Check out photos shot by Mitchel Dixon.