Old foes, Rossford and Oak Harbor face off

Yaneek Smith

Press Contributing Writer

Last year’s matchup between Oak Harbor and Rossford was an interesting one.
The Rockets found themselves ahead 21-0 late in the first quarter and ready to punt the ball away, very much in control of the game. But a high snap got over punter Keegan Durdel’s head, and his kick was partially blocked before Christian Brown scooped it up and ran 30 yards for a touchdown, igniting a string of 36 unanswered points for the Bulldogs as they won, 36-27.
“It really did change the momentum. I think I heard a statistic that said, 90% of the time, if you block a punt, you’ll win. There was something about that big special teams play that really shifted the momentum, and it did,” said Rossford coach Todd Drusback. “We missed on some big plays early, and it was a matter of (converting on) some big plays (after the punt). It was similar to how the Swanton game started last week where we missed on some opportunities. Once we got our composure, we started to get on a roll.”
In last year’s game, the quarterbacks for both teams had outstanding performances. Rossford’s Alex Williams completed 13 of 26 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns and led the team with 60 rushing yards. Oak Harbor Jaqui Hayward completed 13 of 28 passes for 270 yards and three scores and had a 65-yard touchdown run.
The Rockets jumped on top early, scoring on the game’s first play from scrimmage when Hayward found Hayden Tower on an 84-yard touchdown pass, and the two hooked up again on a 33-yard touchdown to push the lead to 14-0. Hayward then found Hayden Buhro on an 18-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0 before the trajectory of the game drastically changed.
In week one, the Bulldogs killed Swanton, 34-0. Williams accounted for 334 yards of total offense — 217 passing, 117 rushing — and five touchdowns and Jake Morrison caught 11 passes for 154 yards and a score.
“It was a rough start, it was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter,” said Drusback. “We drove the ball down in their territory twice in the first quarter and had an interception, a couple of penalties and missed an open receiver in the end zone. We kind of found our rhythm in the second quarter and scored. It was a mixture of a run-pass. Take what the defense gives you, that’s our philosophy. We had some short stuff, and then they moved people out of the box, and we started to run. We started to fly to the ball on defense, (but) there are definitely some things we have to improve upon.”
Williams is a three-year starter who earned league honors in each of his first two seasons.
“He’s an excellent quarterback. Todd and his staff do an excellent job,” said Oak Harbor coach Mike May. “They gave us trouble on defense with motion, and one of the reasons we made adjustments on defense (in the off-season) was because of them. They have an excellent group of wide receivers and we have to be ready for that.”
Morrison, Brandon Swope and Brenden Revels form a potent trio of receivers for Drusback, who loves to throw screen passes.
“They’re known for throwing a lot of screens, and we have to do a good job communicating. We have to run to the ball well on defense,” said May. “They do a great job of running motion and a good job of employing different formations.”
In Oak Harbor’s first game, a 55-7 win over Fostoria, Hayward got the scoring started on the game’s first play when he returned the kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. He also carried the ball nine times for 115 yards and a score. Hayden Buhro carried the ball nine times for 93 yards and a touchdown and Jaxson Overmyer caught two passes for 40 yards. The Rockets scored four touchdowns in the first quarter and three in the second as they led 48-0 at halftime.
Rossford and Oak Harbor did not play in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the Rockets defeated the Bulldogs 35-0, in 2019 in a season that saw Oak Harbor win its third regional championship in school history.
It was actually the first time the teams had faced off since 2005, back when Gary Quisno was coaching the Rockets and Tom Ferguson was leading the Bulldogs.
“We just had an opening, and they had an opening (on the schedule),” said May. “With them being a local team, we thought that it would be a good matchup, year in and year out.”
Quisno and Ferguson’s teams had some memorable games when their respective clubs faced off. Back then, Oak Harbor was in the Sandusky Bay Conference, and the old Suburban Lakes League before that. Rossford, meanwhile, was one of the smallest schools in the Northern Lakes League before becoming a member of the Northern Buckeye Conference in 2011.
Quisno coached the Rockets for 29 years and Ferguson was the Bulldogs coach for 24 years.
Next season, the teams will play one another as members of the NBC. The Rockets will be joining the league after playing in the SBC since ’86.


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