TOLEDO – Before an estimated crowd of 4,500 the Fremont Ross Little Giants and Whitmer Panthers played a game that will be likely discussed for some time.
The contest, which Ross won, 23-21, was not decided until the game’s final seconds and two big penalties against the Panthers figured significantly in the outcome.
It was a big night for host Whitmer. Not only was it the Panthers’ first home game of the year it was also the official dedication of the Panthers’ new stadium turf and seating renovations. Panthers young and old had gathered for the occasion and the atmosphere in the refurbished old stadium was electric.
The first half of the game, however, had to be terribly disappointing for the Panther faithful. Three and out was the pattern for the Panther offense while the Little Giants were busy scoring on their first two possessions to take a 9-0 lead as the first quarter ended.
The first Fremont Ross score came on a 21 yard field goal off the toe of Little Giant senior Bobby Gipe and, then, with only four seconds remaining in the first quarter, Ross again lit up the scoreboard when Ryan Quick successfully followed his blockers into the end zone. As the second quarter began the Whitmer crowd had quieted significantly and with just over three minutes gone in the quarter a bad situation became worse for the Panthers.
After again shutting down the Panther offense on their first possession of the second quarter the Little Giants went back to work and this time scored by virtue of a 65 yard pass play from quarterback Cody Foos to wide receiver Deondray Brown. Ross kicker, Bobby Gipe, converted the point after and the Little Giants enjoyed a 16-0 lead.
On the next Little Giant possession the Panthers had their backs to the wall. Ross quarterback Cody Foos had again led the Ross offense to the Panthers’ one yard line but the Little Giants could not successfully advance the ball any further as the Panther defense came up big and shut the Little Giants down on four successive plays
Taking the ball over on downs, the Panthers suddenly found new life. With a combination of some daring calls from the bench and some good receptions by Panther senior wide receiver Beau Norton, Whitmer began moving the ball for the first time all night.
Although the drive ultimately stalled at mid-field the Panthers did demonstrate that they had some offensive firepower and, by doing so, set the stage for some dramatics in the second half.
In the third quarter the Panthers scored on their only two possessions to pull within two points of the Little Giants at 16-14.
The first Panther score occurred at 4:53 of the third quarter when, after driving the ball downfield on a combination of short passes and quick hitting rushes, Panther quarterback, Donnie Dottei found a wide open Jeremy Jones in the end zone and then the Panthers added a second touchdown on a one yard plunge by Dottei as the quarter ended.
The fourth quarter fireworks began with Whitmer finally taking the lead when quarterback Donnie Dottei again scored on a keeper from the ten yard line. With only 3:27 remaining, the Whitmer crowd was ecstatic and, with the momentum definitely on the Panthers’ side, the situation did not look good for the Little Giants.
However, Ross was not done and it was an unlikely hero that capped the night’s scoring and thereby sealed the victory for the visiting Little Giants.
Taking advantage of a kicking game that plagued the Panthers’ all night, the Little Giants started their final drive with good field position. Starting sophomore quarterback Cody Foos used the occasion to manufacture a nearly picture perfect drive that resulted in a foot long rushing touchdown by backup quarterback Brad Woleslagel.
Woleslagel, who had not played all evening, was able to score the winning touchdown due to two late penalties by Whitmer that extended the Little Giants’ drive. The first penalty occurred on a fourth and goal situation where it appeared that the Panthers’ had stalled Fremont Ross’ drive.
Foos’ attempt to hit his wide receiver was unsuccessful as the pass went incomplete but the line judge determined that the Fremont receiver had been interfered with and instead of a game ending incomplete pass the Little Giants had new life with first and goal at the Panther one yard line.
On the very next play the Panthers jumped offsides, and now