- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) - Kevin Bellefeuil watched Jason Whitens catch all kinds of passes last year - high balls, low balls, crossing routes, deep routes and more - as an all-state receiver.

But when the Powers North Central football coach looked at the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Whitens this fall, he only saw a quarterback.

“He was our favorite target the past two years, so he’s no one-trick pony,” Bellefeuil said. “But moving Jason to quarterback was a natural.”

What could have been a controversial move turned out to be unquestionable when Whitens directed the Menominee County school of 119 students to 72.6 points per game, its first perfect regular season in 35 years and a historic run to the state finals.

With a combination of jaw-dropping team numbers and eye-popping individual stats, the junior receiver-turned-quarterback was named the Associated Press Player of the Year for eight-man football in Michigan.

Whitens headlines the 2015 All-State Team that features North Central’s Bobby Kleiman, Battle Creek St. Philip’s Brendan Gausselin, Posen’s Travis Sharpe and Skyler Tulgetske, Lawrence’s Hunter Coombs, Owendale-Gagetown’s David Binder and Deckerville’s Austin Spaetzel.

Whitens was dazzling in his quarterback debut, completing 84 of 108 passes for 1,492 yards and 31 touchdowns with no interceptions.

Kleiman put up head-spinning numbers of his own as a 6-foot, 195-pound running back. The junior went for 1,073 rushing yards and caught 23 passes for 453 yards, scoring 26 touchdowns.

Gausselin gave St. Philip a special talent at quarterback the past three seasons. The 6-2, 190 senior completed 75 of 107 passes for 1,734 yards and 29 touchdowns while leading his team to its first state final appearance since 1985.

Sharpe and Tulgetske were at the heart of Posen’s perfect season. Sharpe is a play-making quarterback who threw for 912 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 1,333 yards and 24 scores. The 6-1, 210 senior nabbed 12 interceptions at free safety.

Tulgetske, a 5-11, 185 middle linebacker, dominated to the tune of 148 tackles and three interceptions. He doubled as an explosive running back, rushing for 1,746 yards and 20 TDs.

Lawrence quarterback Hunter Coombs stepped in for 2014 Player of the Year Derek Gribler and surpassed many of his stats. The 5-11, 170 senior threw 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions, passing for 1,754 yards and rushing for 955 yards and 17 TDs.

Owendale-Gagetown’s David Binder, a 6-2, 195 junior, ran wild for 1,660 yards while scoring 30 touchdowns in eight games. Binder averaged 10.3 yards per carry and tallied 27.6 points per game.

Deckerville’s Austin Spaetzel reminded the eight-man football world that defense is king. The 6-3, 225 defensive lineman notched 10 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, four fumble recoveries and 63 tackles as a junior.

Joe Austin was selected the Coach of the Year after guiding Engadine to a 7-2 regular season, the program’s best since 1998. Expected to endure a rebuilding season with a young squad in its first year playing in the Western Upper Peninsula Eight-Man League, the Eagles rattled off six consecutive victories after a 1-2 start.


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