Some people just can’t give up on coaching football

J. Patrick Eaken

Did you ever notice that once someone becomes a football coach, they just seem to hang around the game?
        Many former head coaches, once they’ve ended their tenure at one school, often pick up at another school — even if it is an assistant. Sometimes it even seems the same coaches rotate around to different schools, so the only thing that really changes is the players.
        Genoa coach Paul Patterson certainly has football in his blood — he grew up in Canton, Ohio, and before coming to Genoa was an assistant at Central Catholic.
        At Eastwood, the first name changed but the surname remains the same. Craig Rutherford is in his third season after taking over for his father, longtime coach Jerry Rutherford. But Jerry is back — as offensive line coach.
Jerry Rutherford started out his career at Eastwood as an assistant coach in 1981, and took over as head coach the following season, stepping down after 35 years following the 2016 season. He is the longest tenured football coach in Eastwood history. His teams were 227-140 overall and 168-75 in conference play, winning 10 conference championships and finishing second in the conference nine times. The Eagles advanced to the playoffs nine times during his tenure.
        “Glenn Owens was our offensive line coach and his son is playing at Gibsonburg now, so he went back and is helping out at Gibsonburg,” Craig said. “So, we needed an offensive line coach, and he (Jerry) said he would do it, and we had to take advantage of that.
        “It had been a long time since he had coached the offensive line but that’s what he always wanted to do. It’s nice to send those guys down to the corner and they go and do whatever they do and they come back, and then they go back so you don’t see them a whole lot during practice.
        “But when they come back, we always run plays, so they always know what they are doing, so it’s nice to have somebody you can trust. Especially with the offensive line — that is such a critical piece with any offense, especially with what we do.”
        This is Jerry’s second season as the offensive line coach, and Craig says it’s nice to have his experience at all levels. It doesn’t mean everything is always peaches and cream.
        “It is not cruise control,” Craig said. “We try to work really hard to get our guys in the best possible position so they can be successful, so that they can use their strengths to help the team in any way that they can. I think some of the things I learned from him was being as prepared as you can be and knowing what you can be really good at.
        “So, we try to do a lot of things but we also want to be really, really good at a few things. Having him being able to explain what things have worked and what things haven’t gone well I think helps our guys get into the best possible situation.”
        The good thing for both now is they are in the high school building, so that helps them keep in touch with their players.
        “It’s fun. He teaches phys ed now, too,” Craig said. “I was teaching at Anthony Wayne, but now I’m in the building and he’s in the building, so we can get a lot more done because we’re not rushing around as much. Again, all that goes back to getting our guys prepared and doing the best we can. It’s not perfect, but we try.”
Rutherford a wanted man
        Speaking of AW, coach Anderson Brungard tried to get Craig to help his staff there. He took the job at Eastwood instead, but he is friends with Brungard and still learns from him. Brungard’s Generals are 5-0 and ranked seventh in Division II, while Eastwood is 5-0 and ranked third in D-V.
        “Brungard — I’ll be the crazy guy that turned him down two or three times,” Craig said. “He’s good though and I still try to get back to him and try to pick up on a few things that they are doing, and they are really talented — they have some serious talent.
        “Coach (Craig) Smith is back coaching with him, at Elmwood they have two former head coaches, and at Gibsonburg, coach Owens was head coach there and he’s back helping them, so you go around the area and there are a lot of former head coaches who are helping out. I think you see it in the quality of the programs, the kind of consistency that it is building because at least in our league there is far less turnover in the coaching staffs.
        “Even at Lake, so coach (Mark) Emans retired, but they hired one of the assistants and some of the other assistants stick around so they are still doing similar stuff. At Elmwood, they brought a new guy in, but a lot on his staff are either former players or former coaches. The same thing at Eastwood here, there is just a lot of consistency. We have a pretty good staff. We’re fortunate.”
        This week the Eagles take on the Comets in their 62nd match-up all-time. Genoa leads the series 34-27, dating back to when both schools were members of the Northern Lakes League. Of the four schools that left the NLL for the Suburban Lakes League, Genoa was the only program that had an accumulative winning record under coach Jim Firestone.
        The Comets started out the season 0-3 against stiff competition, but won their first two Northern Buckeye Conference games. Sophomore running back Justin Barlage has ran for 440 yards on 74 carries and scored three touchdowns and quarterback Rylen Stoner has completed 24 of 57 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns. The Comets’ defense is led by senior linebacker Daniel Baker, who has 32 tackles, a fumble recovery, two forced fumbles, six tackles for a loss and four sacks good for a accumulative loss of 34 yards.
        Even though Eastwood is unbeaten so far, Craig Rutherford notes that the Comets and other teams in the league are on their way up.
        “It’s just ‘take it one week at a time,’ I guess, and our guys say that over and over,” Craig said. “That’s nice to make sure that you don’t have to press them to make sure they are focused on their opponent. That will be the key start looking forward. If we start looking ahead to other teams, any team in our league could come out and start making plays and we could have some tough games.”
        For example, Lake (1-4, 1-1) defeated Rossford (3-2, 1-1) 48-21 in the league opener, but don’t count the Bulldogs out behind quarterback Kyle Kromenacker.
        “There are some other really good quarterbacks in our league this year,” Rutherford said. “All I know is Lake and Rossford both have some playmakers and they both have really good coaching staffs. I think that game (Lake-Rossford) came down to some turnovers in the second half. You start turning the ball over and the game can start getting away from you.”

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