Potent trio, defense has Rockets off to a fast start

Yaneek Smith

With a talented and experienced group of players, it was expected that Oak Harbor would play at a high level this season.
        The Rockets have exceeded expectations, starting the season 5-0 while outscoring their opponents 237-41. The Rockets are ranked fourth in the Associated Press Division V media poll, trailing Kirtland, Orrville and Eastwood.
        Oak Harbor quarterback Jac Alexander and running back Clay Schulte, the reigning Sandusky Bay Conference Player of the Year, are putting up big numbers on offense, but the defense has been spectacular, too. The defense has not allowed more than 14 points in any game, and pitched a shutout in its 35-0 victory over Rossford.
        Alexander has completed 39-of-56 passes for 626 yards and nine touchdowns and carried the ball 40 times for 472 yards and eight scores. Schulte has carried the ball 56 times for 410 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 20 passes for 303 yards and five scores. Tyler May, the top wide receiver, has caught 12 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns and helps stretch the field for the offense.
        "Those guys provide us with some explosive plays. We're fortunate to have a quarterback that is like a tailback, but (Alexander) can throw. He's a dual threat," said Oak Harbor coach Mike May. "Clay can do just as well as a receiver — he can run up the middle or we can throw it to him. Tyler can stretch the defense and he's got good speed on the outside. He is able to break a big play at anytime.
        It's a dedicated, tight-knit senior class of 15 players. Success has already followed them throughout the years.
        "We have plenty of seniors that have played together for a long time, dating back to flag football since first grade," said May. "There is dedication to the team, they're 100 percent bought into the program and had a great offseason. The leadership of the seniors and the culture the team has created is important."
        Alexander's father, Steve, played football at Oak Harbor and earned All-Ohio honors before playing collegiately at Ohio Wesleyan University. Alexander's mother, Tiffany, is a Port Clinton native and works as a teacher in the Benton-Carroll-Salem school district."
        Alexander, a three-year starter, says this year’s team is focused.
        "I think that we have a lot of experience on both sides of the ball. Nobody is hesitant because of that experience and I think we've had great senior leadership. I think this is the most seniors we've had on a team in a long time," he said. "The work ethic is very good — a lot of times you get into week four or week five and people might lose focus, but our guys have been focused and locked in.
        "We had the best numbers at weight lifting — we had 60 to 70 guys. We have a lot of guys that were heavily invested. Our motto is, 'All In.' We're here to win football games," Alexander continued.
        The defense has held opponents in check thus far.
        "We take a lot of pride in running to the football. We talk about that and stress that," said May. "We have a group of guys that play well together — Jordan Arnold, Clay Schulte and Jac Alexander. We have other guys that have stepped up, guys like Collin Fauver, who has four interceptions, and Dylan Schiets. There are a number of guys that have really stepped up and filled some spots left by (graduation)."
        May also credits one of the team's unsung heroes, starting linebacker and running back Ryan Ridener, for his efforts this season.
        "He's having a terrific year on defense. He is our H-back on offense — he blocks every play. He does the dirty work with the offensive line," said May. "He's very unselfish and is a hard-nosed, tough football player."
        May, now in his 12th year coaching at Oak Harbor, has an experienced group of assistants with him. Scott Schulte, who used to coach with May at St. Marys Memorial, is the offensive coordinator, and Dave Thiel is the special teams coordinator. The other assistants are Eric Dusseau, Doug Slagle, Tim Heffernan, Renel Thompson and A.J. Cecil, a former wide receiver and defensive back for the Rockets who still holds some of the program's receiving records.
        "That's huge in high school football. Six of our eight coaches teach in the district, and five are in the high school. I give our administration a lot of credit for hiring them. We've been together for so long, we don't have to have long meetings, said May. "It's a quality group of assistants and I'm lucky to have them."
        Last season, Oak Harbor won the Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division with a 9-1 overall record and a 5-0 mark in the league. Then the Rockets won their first playoff game in 12 years, defeating Marion Pleasant, 28-21, in the first round.
        Oak Harbor, which is ranked fourth in the Division V playoff standings, is third in the Region 18 standings with 9.85 points. Eastwood is first with 11.4 points, followed by Orville, which has 10.5 points.


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