LAKE STATION | Whiting quarterback AJ Veloz returned to action Friday night -- a week after a helmet-to-helmet hit forced him to sit out the second half of the Oilers' first and only loss of the regular season.
But he spent most of Friday night handing the ball off on his team's way to victory.
The Oilers (8-1, 6-1) did not have much reason to pass, as running back Ethan Young could not be stopped while Whiting clinched the Greater South Shore Conference title. In the first half alone, Young ran for 149 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries, gashing through the middle for big gains on almost every carry.
Young juked, broke tackles and straight-armed defenders all night Friday. He made quick cuts, sliced into the open field and was especially explosive when getting direct snaps. He ended the night with five touchdowns and 269 rushing yards.
Veloz, who often has passed for more than 200 yards a game this year, did not perform up to his usual standard. He went 1-7 for 10 yards and an interception.
Veloz did, however, pick up a big first down on a quarterback sneak in the first half and threaded the ball through two defenders to hit receiver Martin Petruf on a tight slant route.
Oilers coach Jeff Cain said Veloz was fine and would not have played otherwise. He said there was little reason to call passing plays when Young was gaining an average of more than eight yards on every carry.
"We got him out. We did the right thing last week," he said. "But AJ's fine."
Cain said he was most concerned with his team's run defense and would try to make improvements.
Lake Station running back Kyle Gooch pounded the ball up the middle for 167 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 64 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
Much of the game was a duel between running backs, though Lake Station (2-7, 2-5) also threw the ball effectively.
Junior quarterback Kody Lemley tossed the ball for 197 yards and a touchdown, though he also gave up three picks -- all lobs near the end zone.
The game was much closer than the final score suggested for the first three quarters. Lake Station narrowed it to a one-possession game early in the third quarter and repeatedly threatened to tie it up before Whiting busted open a wide lead in the fourth quarter.
The turning point came when a Whiting punt hit the back of an oblivious Lake Station player, and the Oilers recovered the ball at the Eagles' 30-yard line.
It wasn't long before Young found his way into the end zone again. He broke free for a 25-yard gain and then scored on a five-yard run.