Whitmer quarterback Nick Holley and running back Me'Gail Frisch were determined not to let Detroit Catholic Central spoil Senior Night for the Panthers.
Holley and Frisch, both seniors, nearly combined for 300 yards rushing to lead Whitmer to a 19-7 come-from-behind victory over the Michigan football power that played for a state championship last season.
Photo gallery: Whitmer vs. Detroit Catholic Central
Whitmer scored 19 unanswered points after Detroit CC jumped out to a 7-0 advantage in the opening quarter.
"It's a big confidence booster for us," Whitmer's first-year coach Jerry Bell said. "We knew that we could win this game in the fourth quarter. We talked about it all week because that's a good football team over there.
"They've got players all over the field, but we just kept grinding and grinding and grinding, and we wore them out. It proved to us that we could hang with anybody and we could play our style of football."
Holley, a 6-foot, 175-pounder, rushed for 163 yards on 20 carries, including touchdown runs of 12 and 44 yards after halftime. Frisch, a 5-7, 180-pounder, carried the football 21 times for 109 yards in a game in which the Panthers (2-0) seemed to steadily wear down the Shamrocks (1-1), particularly on the offensive and defensive lines.
"He's doing a great job," Bell said, speaking of his starting QB. "He's managing it. He's making it, and he's making the plays that he needs to make. He's playing within himself, and he's not doing anything that he's not supposed to be doing.
"The offensive line came ready to play as well."
Whitmer took the lead in the third quarter when Holley finished off a seven-play, 73-yard scoring drive by darting through the Shamrocks for a 12-yard touchdown run. The Panthers, who came up short on a running play on a two-point conversion attempt, owned a 12-7 lead with 4:01 remaining in the quarter.
Holley basically secured the victory three minutes later when he broke free from several would-be tacklers en route to a 44-yard TD scamper with 1:15 left in the quarter.
"Coach [Bell] pulled me over to the side and told me to control the offense, so I did what I was supposed to do," Holley said. "It worked out for the best."
It became clear in the first half that defense would play a huge role in the outcome. Plenty of hard tackles were made in the first half, with the Panthers dishing out most of the physical play.
Yet, Shamrocks running back Anthony Darkangelo provided his share of uneasy moments for Panthers defenders. He kept Whitmer's defense on edge with his speed around the ends and hard-nosed running between the tackles.
The Shamrocks' six-foot, 200 pound tailback had 61 yards rushing on eight carries by halftime. His footwork helped the Shamrocks take an early 7-0 lead over the Panthers.
Detroit CC took its second possession of the game and marched 65 yards on eight plays with fullback Wyatt Shallman finishing off the scoring drive with a three-yard run around left end with just over a minute left in the opening quarter.
Detroit CC held the slim advantage over Whitmer for most of the second quarter until Whitmer's offense finally sustained a scoring drive during the final minutes of the half.
The Panthers went on a nine-play scoring march that covered 78 yards, with Holley capping the possession by connecting with Christopher Boykin for a four-yard touchdown completion with 27 seconds remaining in the first half. The extra-point attempt by Brian Wagner was blocked, and the Shamrocks went into the break owning a 7-6 lead.
Yet, the late score in the first half for the Panthers gave them the momentum heading into the second half. The Panthers defense, led by defensive linemen Marquise Moore and Jacob LaPoint, who had a key sack apiece, kept the Shamrocks out of the end zone after the break.
"I think Whitmer played a very good game," Detroit CC coach Tom Mach said. "They outplayed us, and they deserved to win. We have to get tougher."
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.