Rockets, Bears continue to be the class of the SBC

J. Patrick Eaken

Two teams that once competed against each other decades back in the Suburban Lakes League are now ruling the roost in the Sandusky Bay Conference.
Gibsonburg and Oak Harbor, which did compete against each other as members of the SBC before joining the SLL, are looking for their second straight football championship — Oak Harbor in the SBC Bay Division and Gibsonburg in the River Division.
Both were unbeaten with 7-0 overall records heading into last Friday night. If both teams won Friday, wins this upcoming Friday would seal at least a co-championship for both squads. The Rockets host Willard (0-7) Friday and the Golden Bears travel to take on Fremont St. Joseph (2-5).
For Oak Harbor coach Mike May, winning a second straight Bay Division title would be a nice reward in his 12th year at the helm.
“We feel like the last two years here we are starting to get the program back on top where it had been traditionally,” May said. “Last year’s senior class was small but really a good group of kids that got us back to winning a championship and then to the playoffs and this year’s group is kind of building on to that.”
The Rockets outscored their first seven opponents 331-51. Senior quarterback Jac Alexander is leading the offense, completing an amazing 55 of 77 passes for 870 yards with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 707 yards on 71 carries, averaging 10.3 yards per carry, and scored 11 TDs.
“Jac is one of those dual threat quarterbacks who is kind of like a tailback playing quarterback,” May said. “He’s a really good passer — he’s completing right around 73, 74 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown an interception yet.
“He’s a lot like (senior running back) Clay (Schulte) — he does a lot of what we do a lot, like run-pass option plays where he makes a lot of decisions for us on offense. He has the option to hand the ball off or throw it, depending on what the defense is giving us, so he makes a lot of decisions on the field. He really directs things in the back of our defense, too, as our free safety.”
The 5-foot-11, 185 pound Schulte has ran for 681 yards on 84 carries with 15 TDs, and has caught 20 passes for 276 yards and six TDs. He is the reigning SBC Bay Division Player of the Year.
“He’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever coached. He’s our leader on defense — he led us in tackles last year and he is doing it again this year and really has a nose for the football,” May said.
“On offense, he is very multiple, he’s our starting tailback and really good at running the football, but he’s a really good receiver also so we split him out quite a bit in our spread formations. He’s equally as good a receiver as he is as a running back. So, overall he is a very versatile football player and very tough football player.”
Schulte is being recruited by multiple NCAA Division II schools, Alexander is leaning towards playing college basketball but May says he is keeping his options open. The Dowling twins, 6-3, 270 pound Will and 6-3, 260 pound Gabe, are also being recruited as linemen by D-II colleges. May says the senior class has up to seven players who could potentially play college football at some level.
Meanwhile, in the Division V playoffs, the Rockets control their own destiny — meaning that if they win out against Willard and at Ottawa County rival Port Clinton in their final game, they will host a first round playoff game. First things first, May says, and that is, win a second straight outright league title.
Our kids have done a good job of focusing day to day and not looking ahead or looking behind — just being very business-like,” May said.
For Gibsonburg to get to 7-0, four running backs are among the leaders in the SBC River — Hunter Smith has 601 yards on 101 attempts with 11 TDs, Theo Hernandez has 532 yards on 56 carries and 10 TDs, Jon Auld has 422 yards on 47 carries with eight TDs and Connor Smith has 163 yards on 26 carries with four TDs.
Quarterback Mitchell Tille has completed 15 of 28 passes for 301 yards with three scores. In all, the Golden Bears led the River with 2,170 yards rushing and 35 TDs, but are next to last in passing yardage.
“In its own way, this is as good a team that I have had from a standpoint that we are so young in some areas and these kids are picking up things so well,” said veteran coach Mike Lee. “The veterans, the seniors and juniors, are doing a great job leading, but our young kids, freshmen and sophomores, have really picked things up quickly and it’s been an unbelievable turn of events for us.”
The Golden Bears are dealing with some adversity as the season winds down.
“It’s a situation where we are semi-deep. I’m not going to say ‘real deep’ because we’ve had a few injuries that have put us behind a little bit,” Lee said. “As long as those starters stay healthy we are going to be in good shape, but we’ve had a few injuries that have put us back a little bit. We’ve tried to create more depth and it’s paying off.”

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