OSCODA – It may not have been expected, but it is welcome nonetheless. The Oscoda (8-0 overall) football team, fresh off a thrilling win over Beaverton in its division seven district semi-final, gets to host Evart (6-2) Friday night with the district trophy on the line.
“We’re coming back home; the kids are more than excited and I tell you what, the community is excited too,” head coach Mark Whitley said. “We had a tremendous following at the game (in Beaverton) Friday night and I thought that was pretty awesome. We had a big crowd and the kids won a big game on a big night.”
The Owls get to host this contest because Evart knocked off heavily favored McBain last week, 34-31. McBain had topped Evart earlier in the season and was undefeated coming in, but the Wildcats got their revenge in the post-season. Perhaps playing in Evart’s hands was the fact that McBain had not played in over 20 days, due to having opponents forfeit due to COVID-19 concerns.
“I honestly wasn’t surprised (that Evart won),” Whitley said. “McBain had two weeks off and I’ve coached long enough to know that it is very difficult to keep your team focused when the only people you are hitting are your teammates. I am not taking anything away from Evart; they beat Houghton Lake twice this year and just beat a good team in McBain. Evart is a good football team.”
The Wildcats are certainly good. They racked up 540 yards of total offense against a much bigger McBain team last week, led by dual-threat quarterback Danny Witbeck, who was 27-of-45 passing for 332 yards and a touchdown and he also ran 16 times for 116 yards and a score. Bryant Calderon is the team’s leading rusher, while Haidyn Simmer typically leads the receiver core. The Wildcats also have a strong kicker in Reese Ransom, who has kicked as many as three field-goals in a single game. Ranson also is one of the team’s leading tacklers, with Kamrin Grein and Sam Bailey also making big plays on that side of the ball.
“They are a well-coached team and run shotgun, pistol, give different formation and looks,” Whitley said of Evart’s offense. “The kids are studying film and we just need to make sure that we do our jobs. That is what we stress, do your job and don’t go cowboy and think you have to cover three people. If we do that, usually things work out. I think offensively, we just need to play our game. We will run, we will throw, our quarterback will run, our fullback will run and we will be as balanced as we can be. It will be good weather, so it should be a heck of a ball game.”
A win would give the program its first ever district championship. For it to happen at home, would make the accomplishment even sweeter for the Owls.
“The impact that this has on the community and everyone at school has been huge, it is a big deal to be back at home,” Whitley said. “The community is so behind these kids, it has been fun. They’ll be parking down the fence. A district championship has never happened before, but these kids are breaking records every week and it means a lot that this is in our house. The kids really want to fight for it.”