Eastwood’s run ends in the regional semifinals

Yaneek Smith

Sports Editor

The Eastwood football team is good enough to still be playing for a shot at the state championship, but as is the case in the postseason, wins are hard to come by.
The Eagles’ season ended with a 28-7 loss to Elmwood in the Division V regional semifinals, though the final score wasn’t indicative of just how competitive the game was.
The defeat was preceded by a 24-20 win over Oak Harbor in the second round and 49-7 victory against Fredericktown.
Eastwood finishes the season 12-1 with a Northern Buckeye Conference title, a run highlighted by the big-play potential of its rushing attack, spearheaded by QB/DB Case Boos, who is in the running to be the Division V Player of the Year, and a defense that generally held opponents in check.
“I think that everybody involved with the program would say that when we started the season, we would’ve never guessed we’d win 12 games,” said Eastwood coach Craig Rutherford. “I’m proud of the way our guys stuck together and worked together. They practiced so hard, and it might be cliché, but they took it one week at a time, and they put together something very special.”
There was the 49-48 win over the Royals in Week 7, but the win over the Rockets vaulted the Eagles, seeded third in Region 18, to the regional semis. Boos was the difference in that game, carrying the ball 30 times for 191 yards and a touchdown while completing 2-of-5 passes for 98 yards and a 61-yard score to Kaiden Sanchez on third-and-10 with 5:31 to play. The other touchdown came on a 2-yard run by Bryce DeFalco, and Robby Rothenbuhler kicked a 25-yard field goal to account for Eastwood’s 24 points.
Oak Harbor jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 7-yard run by Jaqui Hayward and led 14-3 at halftime and got the ball to begin the second half. But the Eagle defense held, and the offense scored 21 unanswered points to take a 24-14 lead and control of the game.
“I think that most people would be shocked at how calm halftime was against Oak Harbor. (Our players) really thought that they were still going to win, and they knew there would be some plays that they could make in the second half,” said Rutherford. “We were just going over the things Oak Harbor was doing to disrupt our game plan and how we were going to make adjustments. Oak Harbor is big, physical and really fast. Our guys played like a bunch of seniors who didn’t want it to be their last game.”
In the loss to the Royals, Boos scored on a 40-yard run late in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 21-7, and Eastwood had its chances in the second half, just missing on two deep balls in the third quarter and another in the fourth that would’ve gone for touchdowns and changed the complexion of the game.
“If you’ve seen Elmwood play, they’ve got athletes and the offensive and defensive lines are big. We weren’t hitting some of the big plays that we were used to having. Our seniors are fighters, and they weren’t going to go down easily. I think when we were down 21 points, they still believed that we had a shot to come back. I think you saw some of that come out in the second half,” said Rutherford. “Often, the games come down to a couple of big plays here and there, and we didn’t quite get one of those plays that we’re used to. You can’t complain about how the guys worked to get back into it.”
Boos will receive a bevy of accolades in the coming weeks. The senior was a force, carrying the ball 185 times for 1,723 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also completed 27-of-50 passes for 631 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception.
“Case is really, really talented. It’s hard to compare guys from different eras,” said Rutherford. “I know that he gave the other teams lots of headaches. We didn’t have as many interceptions as we thought, (but) there weren’t many teams that were throwing the ball over the middle. He was disrupting the other teams on defense, too.”
Joining Boos in the Wing-T backfield was DeFalco (147 carries, 1,052 yards, 16 TD), Bryce Hesselbart (56 carries, 485 yards, 5 TD) and Isaac Reynolds (71 carries, 429 yards, 6 TD).
“The rest of the backfield had to be really unselfish. When Bryce (DeFalco), Bryce (Hesselbart) and Isaac needed to block, they did that,” said Rutherford. “When we needed Case to carry out a fake, those little things could help our offense be really explosive.”
The center is Jordan Pickerel, at 5-9, 190 pounds. The guards are Joey Grzegorczyk (6-0, 200) and Anthony Molina (5-8, 178) and Jaleel Rayford (6-0, 200) and Shayne O’Brien (6-0, 205) are the tackles. All five are seniors. Sanchez, the tight end, rounds out the formation. Jackson Bauer and Dayquan Oliver rotate at split end.
“Our offensive line was a pretty special group. Anytime that you can put five seniors on that line, their experience is going to really help the rest of the offense. When things start to get tough, they can go back to times when they’ve been there before,” said Rutherford. “They were a close group, communicated very well and we didn’t have very many negative plays where we were going backwards. Even on our bad plays, they were getting us a couple of yards back.”
It is the end of the careers for 15 seniors — Boos, Rothenbuhler, O’Brien, Molina, Grzegorczyk, Rayford, Reynolds, Pickerel, Ben Barres, Jackson Bauer, Zack Sheldrick, Dalton Hesselbart, Bryce Hesselbart, Bryce Koprowski-Kistner and Aaron Thompson.
“They all hung in there and some of them played positions they didn’t play as freshmen and sophomores, so they got into the best spot where they could help the team,” said Rutherford. “They trusted each other; they trusted the coaches and they knew if they kept working together, we’d (have success).
“An undefeated regular season is difficult to do, there are not many teams that can do that, but these guys were ready to pull it off,” Rutherford said.


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