PHILADELPHIA — Jake Whitmore carried a world of experience into the Section 3 playoffs as he did entering the regular season.
Indian River’s leader on defense has started for the team on the defensive line since he was a freshman.
“He’s just an extremely hard worker in the weight room,” Indian River coach Cory Marsell said of Whitmore. “Very, very strong both in lower body and upper body. He’s a leader and he’s just a great kid.”
The Warriors had a memorable season that year in 2018, claiming the sectional title and advancing to the state semifinals.
“It’s different from last (season) because that was in the spring, but it feels great,” Whitmore said. “It’s just tradition to play this time of year.”
Whitmore and Indian River (5-0) will continue their postseason quest when they host West Genesee (5-2) in a Section 3 Class A semifinal at 7 tonight. The winner advances to the title game next Friday night at the Carrier Dome.
“I hope we go far as we usually do,” Whitmore said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, it was exciting in my freshman season when we went all the way to the semifinals in states.”
Some of his current teammates were on the 2018 varsity roster, the notable distinction is Whitmore started in the trenches all season long.
“He came up and started for us, he just didn’t come up to the team,” Marsell said. “He was one of those kids who we were a little bit worried about him as a freshman with him obviously being that young, but he was on the defensive line against some of these bigger guys and he held his own then. Now he’s doing a lot more than just holding his own, he’s the leader on the defense.”
Whitmore, who has also started on the offensive line, has played primarily on defensive in 2021.
“Very strong and very fast,” Marsell said of Whitmore, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds. “So with that combination, he’s chasing down guys all over the place, his motor never stops.”
“I’m starting D-line, whether its nose (tackle) or lefty or righty tackle, where ever they need me to be,” Whitmore said. “And I wouldn’t say I’m like really a guard, I’m more like a last resort right guard, if anything. Because they got more people that they found out are better than me or they found out they don’t want to risk losing me or me getting injured on offense, so they usually throw in other people for me.”
He has been utilized in different roles through the years, but has mostly played defensive tackle this year.
“D-tackle, I like it because if the person’s slow or like they’re the guard or whoever I’m going after and if they’re not really decent I can really get by them like really fast,” Whitmore said. “Because I’m good with my feet and usually faster then most linemen because I’m smaller then them. They’re usually bigger and just slower so then I can get past them. It just helps me read where the ball is going more.”
Whitmore enjoys other responsibilities on defense when he’s called upon.
“Nose (tackle), that’s fun because I just hit the person right in front of me and sometimes I can just throw him by me and just fly to the ball or whatever,” Whitmore said. “I like them both, pretty much.”
While Indian River has scored 237 points in five games, the program also takes pride in its defensive prowess. It has allowed only 85 points, for an average of 17 allowed per game.
“It really makes me feel good seeing that we’re stopping the other team and we’re making it hard on them,” Whitmore said.
Whitmore leads the Warriors in tackles made (48) and sacks (five).
“Definitely, he’s a good leader on the field and in the weight room,” Indian River senior linebacker Michael Davis said of Whitmore. “He’s really worked hard, starting in ninth grade and all the way through. He’s been the same player ever since, it’s pretty impressive.”
Whitmore also takes pride in his responsibility as a team leader.
“We just come in and know what we have to do, we’re well prepared,” Whitmore said. “I just come in and do my job and the coaches say ‘if you screw up and even if you’re a starter, you’re getting replaced.’ So I have to really be on my A-game.”
Whitmore enjoys the game’s physical nature, but he strives to be respectful.
“Being a defensive lineman, I just like hitting people,” Whitmore said. “But I do it respectfully, I hate when kids hit people and they’re super cocky and are like freaking out or they’re like trash talking, that’s one thing I absolutely hate. Even with my own teammates, I will yell at them so much for doing it, because they can be hurt and get in trouble.”
He continued: “When I hit people I generally just get up and half the time, I say ‘sorry’ especially if I clock them really hard.”
The top-seeded Warriors rolled to a 58-16 win over Auburn last week in Philadelphia.
Whitmore wasn’t pleased with Indian River’s start because it allowed Auburn to score a touchdown on a long drive that consumed most of the first quarter.
The Warriors bounced back, allowing only a touchdown and a safety the rest of the way to prevail and advance.
“It’s frustrating sometimes, but eventually by the second half or least by the second quarter you get it under control and stuff, or at least the coaches do,” Whitmore said.
Indian River was to play West Genesee in early September, but the game was canceled after several Warriors’ players were forced to quarantine.
Besides Auburn, Indian River has wins this season against current No. 2 seed Fayetteville-Manlius, Christian Brothers Academy, Whitesboro and Central Square.
“A lot of those were a little sketchy,” Whitmore said. “The first quarter is always my least favorite because you’ve got to feel out the other team a little bit. Like our last game against Auburn, we were in defensively for almost the whole quarter before there were like three minutes left on the clock and that was rough.”
West Genesee, which finished in second place in the Class A National Division, defeated Carthage, 38-0, in a quarterfinal last Friday.
“West Genny’s obviously good and we’re good, too,” Whitmore said. “So it just depends on where things fall and who does what and stuff. I don’t think we’re that worried, but things can change, things can happen.”
“I think we’re pretty good where we’re at, we’re pretty healthy,” Marsell said. “We’re excited to just be playing football and I wish we could have gotten a couple more games in, but this is where we’re at.”
Also a successful wrestler, Whitmore has used almost wrestling-like moves during his football career.
“It helps, because most of the time when I tackle I actually go for their legs or their waist,” Whitmore said. “In wrestling, that’s how you get in on takedowns, you get in on their legs and take them down, so it kind of helps a lot.”