Eagles have sights set high heading into the stretch run

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

Last season, Clay got into the playoffs as the 15-seed in Division II, Region 6.
The Eagles lost to Medina Highland in the first round, finishing at 5-6, but at least the team could hang its hat on getting into the postseason. Clay began the season 5-1 but lost the last five games.
This season, the Eagles hope to right the ship in the stretch run by finishing the season out on a high note and possibly get a home game in the playoffs.
The first five games featured some pretty stout competition like Perrysburg, Findlay and Whitmer in the two-division, 11-team Northern Lakes League.
(The Buckeye Division features the six biggest schools in the conference while the Cardinal Division has the five smallest schools.)
The final four games appear to be a little easier with Fremont Ross, Napoleon, Southview and Rogers on the back end of the schedule.
Clay is 2-3. After four games, the Eagles find themselves 11th in the Division II, Region 6 standings. Clay, which has 4.50 points, is less than a point behind Brecksville-Broadview Heights (5.25), which holds the No. 8 spot, the final place to have a home game in the first round.
The Eagles won the opener against Sandusky, 33-32, on a last-second, 7-yard touchdown pass from Mason Heintschel to Hudson Byers with six seconds to play before the PAT won the game. Clay then beat Northview, 42-35, consistently holding a 7- to 14-point lead throughout the game while holding off the Wildcats.
“These crossover games have prepared us for the division games. We’re excited to get into these games,” said Clay coach John Galyas. “Once we get into the division play, it’s going to be different. We’re looking forward to it.”
The last three weeks have seen the Eagles lose to Perrysburg (44-7), Findlay (42-7) and Whitmer (49-21).
“We haven’t played really well the last few weeks, that’s for sure,” said Galyas. “We think we’re a better football team than what we’ve shown.
“We’ve got to develop consistency. We show flashes of doing things right and being a pretty good defense at times, but we just don’t do it consistently,” said Galyas. “We have to do our jobs, be in the right spots, run to the ball. That’s what we’re trying to develop. We’re pretty young on defense. We’re four games into, so we need to start seeing some consistency.”
The offense sputtered last week, but for the most part has performed well.
Following a great sophomore season, quarterback Heintschel has taken his game to another level.
The junior quarterback has completed 89-133 passes for 1,003 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s also created trouble for defenses by rushing 47 carries for 264 yards and two scores. Heintschel led the Three Rivers Athletic Conference in passing and touchdowns in 2022, completing 202-of-291 passes (69 percent) for 2,493 yards and 24 touchdowns.
“He’s played really well. He has been under a lot of pressure at times, (but) he’s really good at extending plays and finding guys,” said Galyas. “We’re happy with how he’s played.”
In Clay’s two victories, Heintschel was 34-of-48 for 360 yards and four touchdowns in the win over the Blue Streaks, and he was 22-of-32 for 273 yards and four scores in the victory over Northview.
Troy Hazuda leads the Cardinal Division with 22 catches for 336 yards and six touchdowns, Byers has 20 catches for 228 yards and two scores and Logan Lajiness has caught 13 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.
“Our wide receivers have played pretty well,” said Galyas.
The offensive line features center Dominic Donofrio (5-9, 190 lbs.), two guards in Aiden Cantu (6-3, 265) and Bryce Shimman (6-0, 200), and the tackles are Jacob Saurbeck (6-7, 265) and Zach Rahm (6-5, 255). Leon Carey (6-1, 285) rotates in at guard.
“We have to clean some things up,” said Galyas. “We’ve had some growing pains.
“We’re banged up, that’s really affecting us right now. We’ll get some of those guys back, so we’re kind of limited with what we can do from a personnel perspective. Early on, the offense was clicking really well, and we think we can get back to that once we get healthy,” he said
On defense, Sagen Dayton leads the team with 31 tackles, followed by Luke Gibbs (30), Carter Whaley (25), Austin Ganues (22) and Brayden Schultz (20).


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