DETROIT – The person who presented the Division 8 state championship trophy to Whiteford football coach Todd Thieken on Friday was the same guy who brought Thieken to Whiteford – Jason Mensing.
As a Michigan High School Athletic Association representative, Mensing was not only on the sidelines for the state finals between Ubly and the Bobcats, but he was also the one presenting the state championship trophy.
“He told me about eight weeks ago that he was going to be the one handing out the trophy, so we better make sure we were the ones to get it,” Thieken said after the game. “For me, to have one of my best friends, down on the field and around these kids, and then to have him give me the trophy was awesome.
“I knew he was going to be the one doing it. I just wanted to be sure we didn’t mess it up and him have award the trophy to someone else.”
Thieken and Mensing coached together at Tecumseh years ago.
Thieken joined the Whiteford staff before the Bobcats made their first trip to Ford Field in 2016. He's coached football for more than 30 seasons in all and his father was a head coach at Evergreen, Ohio. Thieken was head coach there for five years.
The Bobcats broke a 20-20 tie in the fourth quarter to win the second state football championship in school history.
Mensing coached the Bobcats from 2012-2021, elevating the Bobcats to a powerhouse program that has now won five Regional titles. He resigned after the 2021 season to take the head coaching job at Westland John Glenn. He won 93 games in 10 years at Whiteford.
Theiken was named head coach when Mensing resigned and brought back almost the entire coaching staff.
“Within 12 hours of me being named head coach, all our coaches texted me and said ‘Hey, I’m coming back.’ That was such an important thing. If someone else had come in there, who knows if they would have come back.”
One of those to come back to the staff was Ben Avis, who not only returned to the staff, but he also took over as offensive coordinator.
“The way he can break things down and see things and the way he adjusts his play calling during a game is amazing,” Thieken said. “Late in that game we had to be on Page F of our game plan. He just rolled with it.
“During the games there is very rarely that I’ll say anything to him. He does an amazing job. He has great attention to detail.”
The rest of the assistant coaches are Bob Ondrovick, Jason Vida, T.J. Thieken, John Nagle, Ray Paige, Tony DuPree, Nathan Bauman, Phil Bauman and Kris Hoag.
“The way this staff works with these kids and the amount of time they put in is just amazing,” Thieken said.
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Was Whiteford saving Kolby Masserant for the state finals?
That’s what the the junior receiver said after by having what he called “by far” his best game with 5 catches for 82 yards in the state finals.
“The coaches wanted to save me in case we got this far,” he said. “They didn’t want to show too much.”
Masserant said he and quarterback Shea Ruddy have great chemistry in practice.
“It definitely seems that way,” he said. “It’s mutual. We look for each other.”
Ruddy sure appreciated Masserant Friday.
“Kolby played a heck of a game,” he said.
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Whiteford and Ubly both faced an usual problem in the Division 8 state finals.
Both of them were playing in a close game for the first time this season.
“The big thing is that we had dominated so many games and so had they,” Ubly coach Eric Sweeney said. “We had to find out what would work against this team.”
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Lost in the excitement of four long scoring drives by the Whiteford offense was an excellent performance by the defense.
Ubly came into the game averaging 48.5 points per game and its lowest scoring game all season had been 41.
“It seemed like they had four yards every time they snapped it,” Thieken said. “We knew we had to take their quarterback out of the game.”
Ubly quarterback Evan Peruski, normally a very dangerous runner, was limited to just 43 yards on 7 carries.
A key play came in the in the late stages of the first half when Whiteford shoved Peruski out of bounds on the 4-yard-line when he tried to convert a fourth-and-goal from the 6.
Brayden Luse was given official credit for the play, but Shea Ruddy and Jake Iott also were there.
“It was so physical on defense,” Iott said. “All 11 guys had to do their job.”
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Although they dressed 12 seniors Friday, Whiteford’s 14-0 season doesn’t appear to be the end of an era by any means.
Whiteford’s leading rusher, top scorer leading receiver and leading tackler are all underclassmen.
Junior Hunter DeBarr led the Bobcats with 96 yards rushing Friday and 1,212 for the season.
Masserant, a junior, had five catches for 82 yards Friday and finished the season team-highs 23 receptions for 449 yards.
Jake Iott finished with 21 touchdowns, 36 two-point conversions, more than 1,000 yards rushing and 200 tackles this season.
Ryin Ruddy, also a junior, was second on the team in tackles and tied Masserant for the team lead in interceptions.
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Whiteford never trailed in the state championship game, although the score was tied for about seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Bobcats ran 69 plays compared to 47 by Ubly and had the ball for 30 minutes of the game, compared to 18 for Ubly.
Whiteford had more first downs – 22 to 15 – and converted three of four fourth downs.
The Bobcats punted once, the first time they were forced to punt since Week Five against Summerfield. It was just their third punt this season.
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Summerfield’s Brandon Thompson was the representing the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s student representative council Friday.
He was among the MHSAA representatives on the field congratulated Whiteford and bringing the Division 8 state championship the trophy to the Bobcats.
This article originally appeared on The Monroe News: State Finals Notes: Whiteford coach gets trophy from mentor