Whightsil to continue football career at Illinois College

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Wideout to join VCHS alums Doehring and Hemminghaus

By Seth Whitehead

Versatility has been Mitch Whightsil's forté during his time at Vandalia Community High School.

In addition to being an honor roll student, the senior has found time to excel in football and baseball and as the unofficial leader of Code Red - VCHS's raucous student section (Whightsil was the guy in the Super Man costume... or, on special  occasions, a cheerleader's uniform).

His considerable multitasking ability was most evident on the gridiron, where he played five positions for the Vandals during his prep career, earning all-conference honors as a linebacker and wide receiver.

But now, Whightsil is looking forward to the opportunity to be a little more one-dimensional.

He'll get the opportunity to do so next year at Illinois College, where he will focus on playing a single position - wide receiver - for the first time on a team featuring former VCHS teammates Curtis Hemminghaus and Brock Doehring.

"It feels good to be able to focus on one thing after playing different sports in high school," said Whightsil, who added track and field to his high school resumé this spring to work on his quickness. "I can focus on that one position, and hopefully I'll be able to be the best football player I possibly can."

Whightsil was pretty good just about every place he lined up in his three years as a varsity starter at VCHS, helping the Vandals to a program-record run of three-straight playoff appearances in the process.

A student of the game since his early days in the VYO program, Whightsil's high football I.Q. helped him become a complete player.

"I think that's his main strength," said Vandals coach John Stout of Whightsil's football mojo. "He's just got a nose for the ball."

Whightsil was a unanimous all-South Central Conference-East Division selection on both sides of the ball as a junior, leading the Vandals with 76 tackles at linebacker, in addition to leading the team with 337 yards receiving as a tight end.

He earned a first-team SCC-East selection at linebacker again during his senior year, finishing fourth on the team in solo tackles (41) and total tackles (73), despite missing two games with a leg injury that hampered him for a majority of the season.

Whightsil was also an effective situational running back for the Vandals the past two seasons, rushing for more than 350 yards.

But Stout feels that wide receiver will wind up being Whightsil's best position, coming off a year in which he led the Vandals with 22 receptions and 267 yards receiving.

"Mitch has always been a good route runner," said Stout, who moved Whightsil to wideout last season. "And you noticed that most of the passes he caught this year were because of the routes he ran.

"He didn't run by anybody, but he ran those precise routes where he would get it down to the step... That's how he got himself open."

That ability - along with Whightsil's willingness to sacrifice his body in the middle of the field - make him a perfect fit for IC.

"He's going to be kind of an inside receiver for them, where he's working against linebackers and running good routes is more important than blinding speed," Stout said. "That should play to his strengths."

The Blueboys' offensive scheme should also cater to Whightsil's abilities.

"They run a very open offense and are very spread out," Whightsil said. "They'll use six or seven receivers, so there's a place where I can fill. Hopefully I'll get the chance to get to play (right away)."

The fact that a pair of fellow former Vandal linebackers are playing at IC is also a big plus for Whightsil, who garnered interest from a number of other schools.

"Those are two people I loved playing with in high school," said Whightsil of Doehring and Hemminghaus. "Brock helped me out a bunch when I was a sophomore."

Hemminghaus will be a sophomore linebacker next year for a Blueboys defensive unit Whightsil describes as "stacked."

Doehring is expected to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, joining Whightsil on the offensive side of the ball as a tight end.

Doehring has been urging Whightsil to join the Blueboys the past two years, and after Whightsil had a chance to meet Blueboys coach Garrett Campbell, he decided the Jacksonville school was right for him.

 "He's a player's coach and Mitch has met him a couple times and thinks very highly of him," said Stout. "Curtis and Brock love him.

"We also really like Illinois College's program," added Stout. "To me, it's kind of the place to be right now for players in Central Illinois. Luckily, we've got three guys up there now."

Though Whightsil has played wide receiver for just one year, he is confident he can succeed at a relatively new position at the next level.

For inspiration and guidance, Whightsil need look no further than his own family tree.

His older brother, former VCHS quarterback Drew Whightsil, made the transition to wide receiver at Eureka College, turning himself into an all-conference wideout.

"Drew, as much as anybody, has helped me become a good player," said Whightsil, who considered joining his brother at Eureka.

Stout is confident the younger Whightsil can have similar success as his brother at IC.

"I think they are very comparable," Stout said. "They both are good route runners with good hands who can find a seam in the defense and get open."

Whightsil sent out thanks to his various coaches, dating all the way back to his VYO days, and all the Vandals fans who have supported the team throughout his high school career.