Rockets, Comets still trying to protect their border

J. Patrick Eaken

You would never know driving down State Route 163 that there is a border between the Benton-Carroll-Salem school district and Genoa Area school district, but there is.
        For 100 years now, the Oak Harbor and Genoa football teams have been fighting over that border in the annual Celestial Bowl Trophy game. Both coaches, even though they grew up elsewhere, know the importance of it.
        “It is a rivalry that is special because of the great traditions of both programs, the close proximity of the communities and the trophy,” Oak Harbor 12th-year coach Mike May said. “One of our main goals each season is to protect our borders, so this game is on our minds year round.”
        Genoa coach Paul Patterson said, “I think this rivalry, since I’ve been here — you look at throughout the state — I’ve been a number of different places throughout the state. It’s rivalries like Genoa-Oak Harbor that make high school football so fun.
        “What’s special about this one is that it goes so far back. You look at some of the current closer generation, there are different rivalries based on leagues and what league you are in. This rivalry goes back a long ways. That’s what is cool because this week you always hear from parents, you hear from grandparents who have been a part of this game, and that’s what is always neat this week,” Patterson said
        Patterson, who has a long history of high school football, can relate to other rivalries he has witnessed and says this one easily compares.
        “When I was at Central Catholic, it was about Central Catholic and St. Francis — we were playing for the Irish-Knight Trophy every year and I was there 10 years for that. My own, growing up in Canton, Ohio — Canton McKinley and Massillon — you see that rivalry, so those are just a couple ones of communities. And, that’s what this is on a smaller scale — two similar communities right down the street from each other that have been connected for so long and it’s kind of neat.”
        This year, the rivalry matches up the defending Northern Buckeye Conference champions and the defending Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division champions. Both teams expect to be in the hunt again this year, and May knows facing off against the Comets will be a challenge.
        “We know that every year Genoa will be well-coached and play physical football,” May said. “They always come off the ball hard on offense and come right at us. On defense they are aggressive and do a great job of pursuing to the football.”
        Genoa returns 21 lettermen from a team that finished 12-1 overall, was a perfect 7-0 in the NBC, and reached the Division V regional finals. Oak Harbor has 15 returning seniors from a squad that finished 10-2 and a perfect 5-0 in the SBC Bay Division.
Talented senior skill-set
        Genoa’s challenge will be stopping senior quarterback Jac Alexander, a dual threat who commands an offense that will operate out of three- and four-wide receiver sets. Last year, Alexander completed 121 of 199 passes for 1,591 yards, good for a clip of 61 percent, and he threw 20 touchdown passes. He also ran for 1,184 yards on 210 carries (5.6 yards per carry) and 10 TDs.
        “He is that dual threat kid who can hurt you throwing the ball and can hurt you running,” Patterson said. “What makes Oak Harbor so goodis they have other kids — that (senior Clay) Schulte kid at running back is a really good football player and Tyler May, Mike’s son, is a heck of receiver. So they have some real good skilled kids.”
        Schulte is the reigning SBC Player of the Year. Ryan Ridener is the other running back and May and Gage Brough are top returning receivers. Schulte ran for 819 yards on 158 carries (8.1 per carry) and eight TDs and he caught 43 passes for 467 yards (10.9) and six TDs. May caught 25 passes for 446 yards (17.8) and six TDs.
        Patterson has seen this kind of talent before when he had all-state quarterback Jacob Plantz and tight end Drew Bench, also an All-Ohio player who is now playing football on scholarship at Bowling Green State University.
        “It goes back to kind of how we were last year — I kind of look at it that this year is their class,” Patterson said. “Last year was our class with good athletes coming through here.
        “They have a lot of seniors and I remember watching them play in middle school against ours, and they were a talented group in middle school. This is kind of a special group coming through for them and a talented group and we’re going to definitely have our hands full trying to stop Jac. Anytime you have to try and stop a great quarterback that makes things difficult, plus you add Schulte and May into the mix and they are going to be tough to stop.”
        For the Comets, there are still plenty of returning players with experience, and others fighting for key positions. The defense is one of those areas that need to be shored up, says Patterson.
        “The defense, up front, some of those experienced guys like Gage Gallagher, who came in as a sophomore last year and played real well for us,” Patterson said. “And then Grant Goodman is definitely going to play more defense than what he did last year for us.
        “We’re moving Danny Baker from defensive end and he’s going to be more of a linebacker this year with (Dave) Novotney and we have a nice sophomore, Colton Stewart, who played JV for us and he’s going to have a nice year at linebacker for us this year.”
        One of the biggest areas of concern is replacing all-state kicker Sam Witt, who is a senior, but tore an ACL again this summer. He tore the ACL on his other leg last year and is currently undergoing rehabbing, but Patterson says his chances of being on the field this year are slim to none. Witt also was a key player in the offensive backfield and on defense, but the search is underway for a new kicker.
        “We’re working with a few kids — we’ve got a couple of younger kids who are looking at kicking or we might be grabbing a soccer kid — we’re working with him, so we’ll see how they do in scrimmages and stuff,” Patterson said.


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