Now for Clay — here come the Three Rivers teams

J. Patrick Eaken

Clay football began the season 2-0, taking down Maumee (0-2) 49-7 and Sylvania Northview (1-1), 28-10. They faced off with east side rival Waite in the Oil Barrel Trophy game on Friday.
        Clay has 25 first downs in two games and generated 694 yards of total offense while giving up 354.
        All that said and done, here come the Three Rivers Athletic Conference teams. While Clay does well in the TRAC in most sports, in football victories have been elusive.
        Last year’s team did not win a single TRAC game, but the belief is that this year will be different.
        “We know what the league is all about. You need to bring your A-game every week,” Clay coach John Galyas said. “There are no off weeks in our league, that’s for sure. That is something that we know and we prepare for and hopefully, our goal is to compete every week. Get in the fourth quarter and give yourself a chance because anything can happen.
        “You get into the league schedule and it can be a meat grinder. You try to stay healthy — it definitely tests your depth.”
        Central Catholic and Whitmer are the only teams that have won a TRAC gridiron championship since the league began in 2011. Even if the Eagles can’t beat those two but manage to win the rest, eight victories would be nice.
        “We haven’t put a number or anything — really it’s to go out there and compete and play as hard as you can. Because if you don’t go out and play hard I can guarantee what is going to happen. It’s not going to be pretty,” Galyas said. “If we could get to eight wins we’d definitely be in the playoffs.”
        The Eagles open league play this Friday hosting Lima Senior at Clay Memorial Stadium. The Spartans opened the season with a 49-45 win over Lima Central Catholic and 17-14 victory over Piqua.
        “They have athletes, too, so you never know. I know offensively they are pretty explosive. They scored 49 points in their first game so that’s going to be a challenge for our defense,” Galyas said.
        The good thing is that the Spartans are making the long trip to Oregon. It will be the second straight home game for the Eagles.
        “It’s kind of nice. We love playing here. It’s awesome,” Galyas said. “We love practicing here and we love playing here. We love practicing as much as we can in the stadium, certainly, and we love this place. It’s a great setting.”
        The trick would be in finding a way to upset Central and Whitmer, which both started out 2-0. The Fighting Irish defeated Springfield 48-0 and Harper Woods (Mich.), 35-12, The Panthers downed Start, 48-0, and Detroit Catholic Central, 14-7.
        “They are the top two, that’s for sure. It’s going to take a great effort to beat those two,” Galyas said. “We definitely know what those two schools are all about. They (Central) reload. Their defense was incredible last year and they lost a lot of guys off that defense, but they have a lot of guys who are going to step right in. They are going to be tough and we know that.”
        After two weeks, all eight teams of the TRAC combined to go 12-4 against non-league teams. Fremont Ross lost to Tiffin Columbian, 35-7, but defeated Start, 41-23.
        “I know they lost a lot, including their quarterback, who was a really good player,” Galyas said. “They are starting a freshman quarterback and week one, Tiffin Columbian took it to them but then they bounced back and beat Start last week, So, I think probably playing a young kid at quarterback, as he plays better they are going to play better. They got a Division I D-lineman (6-1, 285 pound senior Dontrez Brown), too, who is going to Bowling Green.”
Heintschel taking charge
        Against Northview, Clay junior quarterback Logan Heintschel completed 13 of 25 passes for 199 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Andrew Collins. Heintschel also had touchdown runs of seven and 10 yards.
        In two games, he has completed 27 of 40 passes (67.5 percent) for 375 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for another 135 yards on 19 carries (7.1 per carry) and four touchdowns, including a 47-yarder, and sophomore running back Jordan Pettaway has 95 yards on 12 carries (7.9), three TDs and a run of 54 yards.
        Heintschel’s top receivers are Collins, who has four receptions for 180 yards, and senior Jonah Kiss, who has 12 catches for 103 yards. Heintschel was thrown into the fire last year after the starting quarterback got injured, but now having a year of experience is paying dividends.
        “His decision making has been great — it’s been good all summer so that’s something that is really nice to see,” Galyas said. “We definitely took our lumps (last year), but it’s paying off this year. The game has slowed down for him and it’s been great to see.”
        Galyas said every aspect of the game was working against a good Northview team.
        “It was a real nice win. Their quarterback was hurt, but still, it’s the first time in four years that we beat them. Our offense was consistent. We were able to run the ball a little bit. They are huge — Northview has size like you can’t believe and our defense played really well. We’ve played good defense so far. We gave one up in the fourth quarter, and you don’t like to give any up.”
        It was a similar performance in the win over Maumee in the season opener.
        “Offensively, we played well and our special teams — we scored on all three phases of the game. Our defense created turnovers, we put pressure on the quarterback, stopped the run. We were able to run the ball so it’s the best performance we’ve had all around in a while,” Galyas continued. “Defensively, we played really tough through our scrimmages and obviously, through the Maumee game. Our guys are flying to the football and you do that on defense, you are going to be alright.”
        Clay 5-foot-8, 180 pound junior linebacker Cameron Duran leads the team with 17 tackles and an interception, 6-2, 215 pound sophomore Ty Cobb has 15 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss, 6-1, 205 pound senior linebacker Ty Szymczak has 12 tackles and 5-8, 170 pound senior linebacker Kameron Miller has 11 tackles. As a team, the Eagles already have five interceptions.
        One way Galyas is improving the program is by building depth through roster numbers. Galyas is a teacher at Clay High, so being in the building gives him access to the hallways.
        “We’ve always recruited the hallways and we spend a lot of time at our junior high trying to get guys out. Our sophomore class is really big and we’re excited about our sophomore class. But, you know, this is the most seniors I’ve had since I’ve taken over,” Galyas said.
        “We did get three seniors to come out who haven’t played since junior high — they are really helping us. (Against Maumee) Derek Bolander caught a touchdown pass, Drew Collins had two real nice catches and long runs — those guys are athletes. Skylar Mays is another guy who hadn’t played, so we have three guys who are really helping us. That’s been awesome. That’s something we are going to continue to do — recruit the hallways.”

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