W.L. Western rallies, then holds off Canton for win
Canton — Cody White dreamed of pulling out game-winning drives while growing up so he earned a thrill of a lifetime Thursday night by helping Walled Lake Western defeat Canton, 33-30, in a Kensington Lakes Activities Association showdown.
White, a Michigan State commit as a receiver, was forced into duty for the second straight game at quarterback because of an injury to Johnny Tracy.
And, White once again delivered.
His performance wasn’t as clean as his debut a week ago when he threw for 171 yards and four touchdowns in the opening half of a 41-14 rout of Farmington, but it certainly was more heroic.
After Ben Tubaro’s 33-yard field goal gave Canton a 30-27 lead with 4:35 left, Western started out at its own 32.
White, who fumbled multiple snaps out of the shotgun and overthrew the deep ball numerous times, tossed aside the past and focused on what would be the winning 68-yard drive.
He rushed for 19 yards and capped it off by finding Justin Thomas in the left corner of the end zone for a 29-yard strike with 37 seconds left.
“I’ve always dreamed of it as a kid, just coming down with the game-winning drive, but never for this game and not throwing it,” said White, who completed 9 of 22 passes for 190 yards and two TDs, including a 59-yard scoring toss to Thomas earlier in the second half.
“When it went into the air, it seemed like it was up there forever, and when he (Thomas) came down with it there was so much joy and excitement.”
With White’s move to quarterback, Thomas was the main weapon for Western’s aerial attack.
“We’ve been running extra routes (in practice) to get the timing down,” he said. “When I saw the ball go up in the air (winning TD catch), I just said to myself, ‘Catch the ball … go up and catch that ball.’ ”
Western coach Mike Zdebski was proud of White’s effort.
“He just plays with a lot of confidence,” said Zdebski. “Nothing gets to him. Nothing rattles him. We had guys open, but he has a Joe Montana arm, throwing the ball 80 yards down the field and just overthrew guys who were open. He doesn’t get rattled, though. He maintains that sense of confidence, calmness and composure so the kids follow him.
“Nobody panicked, even when we were down 27-14, nobody panicked. We just fixed things and went back to work.”
Canton still had one chance to pull the game out, getting the ball at its own 38 and advancing to Western’s 30 before Tubaro’s 47-yarder fell short on the game’s final play, leaving the Chiefs at 0-2 for the first time since 1998.
With Canton standout running back Markus Sanders — who rushed for 2,500 yards last season —sidelined during the second half with a lower left leg injury, Colin Troup and sophomore Steven Walker stepped up and made big plays.
Western came out focused to stop Sanders and bottled him up for the majority of the first half (10 carries, 40 yards) before he went to the sidelines late in the half.
Canton’s defense forced Western into a pair of three-and-outs to start the second half, then took advantage of short fields both times, first on a 60-yard TD run by Troup for a 20-14 lead, then on Walker’s 51-yard run for a 27-14 cushion just 41/2 minutes into the second half.
Canton’s Julian Thornton also had a special first half for Canton, scoring on a 51-yard pass from Jake O’Donnell to open the scoring, then busting loose for a 50-yard run to set up his second TD, a 1-yard run for a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Still, in the end it was White who rallied Western back.
After Jalen Marshall’s 46-yard TD run helped cut Western’s deficit to 27-20 with 7:25 left in the third, it was White who scored on a highlight reel 60-yard quarterback keeper, breaking loose up the middle, then cutting left to reach the end zone. White rushed for 91 yards on eight carries.
Canton piled up 332 yards rushing with Walker gaining 138 yards on 13 carries and Thornton, 88 yards on 12 attempts.