The Whetstone High School football team finished the season with the Golden Grapple trophy and its first winning season since 2009.
The Braves won the trophy by beating Centennial 42-21 in a City League-North Division contest Nov. 1 at home to finish 6-4 overall. It was their 11th consecutive victory over the Stars, who finished 4-6.
Senior quarterback Ramroth Finnegan and junior running back Austin Davy led the way for Whetstone, which won its final two games and four of its last five. Finnegan completed 14 of 18 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns and Davy had 143 yards rushing on 21 carries, caught five passes for 53 yards and scored two touchdowns.
"We beat our rival at home in front of a good crowd in good weather to finish with a winning record, so we're pretty excited about that," coach Don Poff said. "We created three turnovers (against Centennial) and had 36 takeaways for the season, and it was just a tremendous way for a terrific senior class to go out."
Whetstone led 14-12 early in the second quarter but extended its lead to 35-12 by halftime.
Senior fullback Chris North scored on a 3-yard run and senior wide receiver Trent Harper caught a 71-yard touchdown pass to give the Braves a 14-0 lead. After Centennial made it 14-12, senior wide receiver Darius Bester returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score, Davy scored on a 12-yard run and Finnegan threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Rozell Manley with 22 seconds left in the first half to make it 35-12.
Centennial scored in the fourth quarter to cut its deficit to 35-21 in the fourth quarter and had an opportunity to pull closer, but the Stars turned the ball over on downs at the Whetstone 9-yard line. The Braves closed out the scoring with a 10-yard pass from Finnegan to Davy on a 10-yard late in the game.
Harper had five receptions for 108 yards and had an interception on defense.
"Harper, North, Finnegan and Davy played great and I think (senior) Demitri Burrell, a small but strong and quick defensive lineman, played a whale of a game," Poff said.
Whetstone finished 4-3 in the City-North to tie Mifflin for fourth, behind Brookhaven (7-0), Beechcroft (5-2) and Northland (5-2) and ahead of Centennial (2-5), Columbus East (1-6) and Linden-McKinley (0-7).
"Our seniors really stepped up and a 6-4 record is a great starting point to build on," Poff said. "I hope it helps with the carryover. Our weight program has already improved and I expect they'll be begging to get back at it in a few weeks. We'll start lifting hard in January."
The Braves lose 17 seniors, including Finnegan, who was 141-for-255 passing for 2,041 yards with 24 touchdowns and six interceptions and 315 yards rushing and three scores on 46 carries, and wide receivers David Simmons (43 receptions, 764 yards, 4 TDs), Harper (23-466, 5 TDs), North (17-188, 2 TDs), Tony Cordetti (10-131, 2 TDs) and Bester (5-115).
According to Poff, Finnegan is a Division I college prospect.
Harper and North also were key players in the secondary.
"We're going to lose a lot on defense, especially on the line and in the secondary," Poff said. "I think we'll have the guys to fill in the defensive back spots, but we're going to need to develop and find some defensive linemen. We've got a couple tough linebackers back in (juniors) Justus Barnett and Ryan Burnett.
"Offensively, we should return three of five linemen, including (junior) Jeremy Polk, who I think is going to be a strong leader. We return our two running backs, (juniors) Melek White and Austin Davy. We've got a lot of good, young receivers like (sophomore) Aidan Tuttle and Rozell Manley. (Freshman) Jack Staggs played a few quarters in relief of Ramroth when he was hurt and I think he's going to be another good quarterback. He's intelligent and coachable and has a desire to be very good."
White rushed for 738 yards on 106 carries, had 23 receptions for 183 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. Davy, who also handled the place-kicking duties, had 281 yards rushing on 62 carries, had 17 catches for 162 yards and scored six touchdowns.
"I think what the young kids learned most was the camaraderie and family feeling the seniors produced," Poff said. "(The seniors) pulled all sorts of pranks on me and our staff in the final week. That shows they trusted and loved us like we did them. That carries over to the rest of the team. I hope we always have that family feeling here."