To find toughness — Rockets’ Jordan Arnold has it

Mark Griffin

Jordan Arnold found himself in unfamiliar territory — all alone — in Oak Harbor’s playoff opener Nov. 9 against visiting Beachwood.
The Rockets’ senior, a first-team All-Sandusky Bay Conference defensive end, took over the starting H-back position on offense after a back injury ended Ryan Ridener’s season in week nine. Against Beachwood, Arnold scored the first touchdown of his career when quarterback Jac Alexander found him all alone in the end zone and tossed him the football.
“It was definitely exciting,” Arnold said. “I knew I was open. I’m mostly a blocker, but I was in the middle of the end zone and there was no one around me. It was fourth-and-long and (Beachwood) just blew coverage and it worked out. It felt like (the ball) stayed up there forever. I thought, ‘I gotta catch this.’ ”
Arnold and the third-ranked (Division V) Rockets won the game easily, 41-7, then followed that with a tough 34-14 win over fourth-ranked Eastwood last Saturday. Oak Harbor (12-0) faced defending D-V state champion Orrville (11-1), led by All-Ohio junior tailback Marquael Parks, in the regional finals at Elyria High School on Saturday.
The sixth-ranked Red Riders, who finished 13-2 last season and beat Johnstown-Monroe, 49-34, in the state title game, advanced to Saturday’s game with a 49-27 win over Marion Pleasant last weekend.
“They are very athletic,” Oak Harbor coach Mike May said. “They have good size up front. Defensively, they’re sound and they do a great job. Their kids have been there and have tasted a state championship.”
The Rockets’ defense is allowing 10.5 points a game through 12 games, and Arnold has played a huge role on that side of the ball. He has 71 tackles, six tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries and two fumble recoveries. Arnold had five tackles against Eastwood last Saturday.
“He’s one of our best defensive players,” Mays said. “We play him to the wide side of the field and to the strength of our opponent’s offense. He’s been a huge factor in how our defense has played this year, which didn’t surprise me at all. He had a great year last year, and coming into this year we expected great things. He plays hard every single play, in practice or in a game. He never takes a play off.”
May praised the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Arnold’s athleticism, not just on the football field but also in the weight room.
“He’s a great athlete,” May said. “He can do different types of pull-ups that nobody else can do. He’s really worked hard in the weight room developing his body. He’s our strongest player, pound for pound. He makes some plays on the field defensively that are just phenomenal plays, great effort plays.”
Arnold said the pull-ups May spoke of are called “muscle-ups” and are done during back workouts.
“You do a pull-up and you go above the bar,” he said. “You flip your arms and pretty much do a straight-bar dip. It’s really weird. I saw someone do it one one time and I worked at it for a couple months and thought it looked cool. It kind of works your whole upper body, which is a plus. Not very many people can do them.”
Arnold has had his share of highlight-reel plays this season, including a hit he put on Fostoria’s quarterback in the season opener.
“I didn’t get blocked at all and the quarterback didn’t see me,” Arnold recalled. “It was a clean hit. He definitely got up slow. I had another one later in the game, on third down. Another big hit was against Beachwood. After I scored a touchdown, I had a third-down sack on the next series to end their drive.”
Arnold said one of the goals he set for himself as a freshman was to one day break the Rockets’ single-season sack record of 14.
“I didn’t reach my goals yet,” he said, “but there’s still time. As a defensive end, I like getting sacks. It’s my all-time favorite thing to do. I like the energy it gives off when you get a sack. The whole defense gets hyped up.”
Arnold said one of the main reasons for the Rockets’ success this season has been the closeness of the team and the familiarity the seniors have with each other.
“We’ve all been playing football since the first grade,” said Arnold, who wants to become a personal trainer after college. “We played flag football together and grew up together. We are all there for everyone. There’s no separation. With our chemistry and how hard we work, as long as we don’t get complacent, there’s not a team that can beat us as long as we do what we do.
“We’ve been practicing for six months and I don’t think there’s been a single day where we haven’t gotten better. We want to play another couple weeks, and I think we can.”


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