By Ron Rop

MONTAGUE – Whitehall senior quarterback¬†Kyle Stratton left quite a mark on Friday night’s Battle for the Bell.

And, it wasn’t just Stratton the quarterback. It also was Stratton the defensive back.

Stratton scored two rushing touchdowns, returned an interception for another and passed for yet another in the Vikings’ 35-0 victory over the host Montague Wildcats. The game was played before a capacity crowd at Montague High School.

Whitehall played without explosive Ca’Mar¬†Ready, but the Vikings had adequate replacements in Hunter Osborne and Blake English, who stepped in and made contributions.

“Ca’Mar is a big, huge player for us, a starter both ways,” Stratton said. “But, other guys stepped in and that’s what championship-caliber teams do. When a guy goes out, we have guys who step in.”

After the Viking defense held the Wildcats to a three-and-out, the Stratton-led offense went to work with a short field. A minus-1 yard punt set up the Vikings at the Montague 24. Five plays later, Stratton scored from 3 yards out.

Another drive that produced no first downs forced another Montague punt. Whitehall promptly drive 70 yards in eight plays. Big plays on the drive include a 29-yard pass to Camden Thompson and ended with a 22-yard rushing touchdown by Stratton.

As the first-half clock was nearing zero, the biggest play of the game occured. Montague quarterback Mason Darke threw a pass toward the right sideline that Stratton picked off and returned 35 yards for a touchdown with 6 seconds remaining before the half. Instead of leading 14-0 at the half, it was 21-0.

“That was a big deal for us,” Sigmon said of the final second Pick 6 by Stratton. “That was a big play for us, it might have been the play of the game.”

Whitehall took a 28-0 lead in the third quarter when Stratton scrambled then found a wide open Trenton TenBrock on a 15-yard touchdown pass on a fourth and five play.

The final score of the night came from the Viking defense. Everett Napier picked off a pass and darted 35 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the fourth quarter. Early in the fourth quarter, Napier picked off another pass that stopped a Montague possession.

“I’m so happy with our defense right now,” Whitehall coach Tony Sigmon said. “They are playing fantastic. We’ve played two spread teams and we have two shutouts. I think that is a real big deal for us and what we hope to accomplish moving forward. We know we have a lot of physical football left to play on our schedule.”

How good was the Vikings defense?

For starters, they picked off three passes. They also limited the Wildcat rushing game to 39 yards on 21 carries.

Darke completed 10-of-20 passes for 69 yards and three interceptions. Adam Baird rushed 10 times for 48 yards. Fletcher Thommen had nine tackles. Isaiah Atchison had one interception.

Stratton rushed 15 times for 138 yards and completed 8-of-17 passes for 54 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“I’ve been on both sides of this rivalry as far as wins and losses,” Sigmon said. “It’s a big deal for the community and it’s a celebration of White Lake.”

Whitehall travels to Manistee next week while Montague hosts Ludington.

Photos by Jason Goorman