Rockets forced to run the football, and it’s working

J. Patrick Eaken

Oak Harbor ran up 457 yards rushing in a 69-17 Division V playoff win over Doylestown Chippewa.
The Rockets had little choice but to run the football, but it was effective.
“We got our running game going, which we have to do now with our quarterback gone for the past few weeks. I thought our offensive line played well, was physical. They opened up some nice holes for our backs,” Oak Harbor coach Mike May said.
Oak Harbor’s 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior quarterback Ashton Schroeder went down near the end of the Edison game, a game the Chargers came from behind to win 22-16.
Schroeder had completed an outrageous 61 of 73 passes (84 percent) for 534 yards and three touchdowns before his season ended.
“The quarterback broke his arm at the very end of the Edison game and is out for the season. It was really late in the game,” May said. “We definitely have had to adjust things. I think we’ve only thrown four passes in the last three games. We are still running a little bit out of our traditional wing T, but we run it out of our spread offense anyways, so we’re doing a little bit of both.”
When you must run the ball, the offensive line comes into play. That is where you bring in 1,130 pounds of beef. They are not all overwhelmingly oversized, but they know their job.
“There has been even more pressure on our line now that our starting quarterback is injured,” May said. “We have a veteran group up front.
“(Senior) Aiden Hall (5-foot-8, 185 pounds) is a returning starter and we have a couple seniors playing together on one side of the line, which is Egan Bolander (5-8, 225) and Blake Dewitz (6-0, 220), and our left side of the line we have a couple juniors in Dylan Schiets (6-2, 230) and Ryan Snow (6-2, 265). They’ve started every game, they’ve been challenged, and they are playing well, especially there in the postseason.”
As a result, it is a freshman running back, 5-foot-11, 170-pound Dalton Witter, who led the team with 149 yards on seven carries and three touchdowns. Six-foot, 220-pound senior running back Ryan Ridener had eight carries for 69 yards and one TD, Collin Fauver had four carries for 67 yards and two TDs. The Rockets did not pass once.
However, it is Ridener and Fauver who have carried Oak Harbor all season, combining for 902 yards. Fauver has 485 yards on 90 carries, third in the SBC Bay Division, has scored nine TDs on the ground, plus he caught 17 passes for 160 yards. Ridener has 417 yards on 62 carries and three TDs.
Two other receivers were instrumental before the running game took priority—junior wide receiver Hayden Hower has 10 catches for 121 yards and senior wide receiver Tyler Wadsworth has 10 catches for 117 yards.
However, the running game has worked so well that since the Edison game, the Rockets have gone on a three-game winning streak, defeating Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division foe Willard 47-6 and Ottawa County rival Port Clinton 14-7. The other win came over SBC opponent Vermilion, 30-0.
Other losses were to Bellevue, 14-7, and Huron, 35-21, and May will tell you that his Rockets were in every game.
“We dominated the first half against Edison, and we let that one slip away, and even Bellevue we were leading in the fourth quarter and let that one slip away in the fourth quarter, also,” May said.
On defense, junior defensive back Cade Petersen has three interceptions and Ridener, from his linebacker position, leads the team with 65 tackles and also has an interception.
The Rockets are 4-3 and had a second-round playoff game at what May called a “very talented” Elyria Catholic (3-2) team Saturday.
“We feel good about where we are at. Our kids work to get better every single day. I think we’ve improved as the season went on, and a lot of that is because of our senior leadership,” May said.
The team is drawing inspiration from Oak Harbor student Nick Fish, who lives with cerebral palsy and had a relationship with former University of Toledo football coach Matt Campbell.
“He actually comes out on Thursdays with us and runs a play with us,” May said. “He’s an inspiration to our players and coaches. He loves football and always has a great time when he plays out there.”


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