Coach: Jerry Rutherford, 27th year, 165-114
Last Year: 8-3 (6-1, SLL)
Forecast: The Eagles return five starters to an offense that averaged 36 points a game in 2008, including leading rusher Cody Seifert. Their defensive unit, which allowed 9.9 points a game, returns six starters.
Seifert, a senior, rushed for 754 yards (6.0 ypc.) and 12 touchdowns last year and also caught 14 passes for 171 yards and two scores. The other returners on offense are senior split end Nick Schmeltz (9 catches, 105 yards), senior tackle Clay Rolf, senior guard Matt Schling and junior center Jeff Rutherford.
Rolf (6-6, 251), who has verbally committed to play at Bowling Green State University, has been moved to tight end.
“He can catch the football,” Rutherford said. “The only way I would have done the move would be if we had enough offensive linemen. Jeff Hill, our offensive line coach, felt we could use him at tight end.”
Eastwood graduated quarterback Jason Faykosh, who completed 90-of-139 passes for 1,213 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Faykosh’s heir apparent is 6-4 senior Clayton Ruch, who completed 11-of-15 passes for 97 yards as a junior.
“Ruch looks really good,” Rutherford said. “He did a nice job (Aug. 15) in our scrimmage against Anthony Wayne and Lima Central Catholic. He gets something on the ball. I always felt he was a pretty good quarterback. His sophomore year he was our scout team quarterback and I felt a lot of times he was as good as the guy we were going to play on Friday nights.”
The Eagles graduated leading receiver Mark Schult, a running back who grabbed 28 passes for 508 yards and seven touchdowns, as well as their second- and third-leading rushers. Ashton Brown ran for 584 yards and eight touchdowns in ‘08, while Matt Schlumbohm rushed for 516 yards and seven scores.
Seifert will be one of Eastwood’s featured backs along with sophomore Pernell Conner and Schmeltz, who has moved from wide receiver to wingback.
“Conner played fullback on the jayvee team last year, and he’s put on 25 pounds,” Rutherford said. “He’s on the track team as a sprinter. We’re hoping Schmeltz can block for us and give us some things there. He’s a good receiver and a good runner, so we want to get him more involved in the slot.”
The returning starters on defense are Rolf (52 tackles, 10 sacks) at end, senior linebackers Schling, Seth Hoffmann and Bob Hardison, and senior defensive backs Schmeltz and Jake Rogers.
Schling recorded 61 tackles a year ago, including 11 for loss, and eight sacks. and Schmeltz led the Eagles with seven interceptions.
Rolf and Schling were both first-team All-SLL picks on offense and defense while Jeff Rutherford, Seifert and Schmeltz (defense) were also first-team selections.
Coach Rutherford said being able to run the ball and stopping the opponent’s running game will be the key to the Eagles’ success.
“We have two new linebackers and linemen up front and we have a new strong safety,” he said. “Stopping the run is most important. We like throwing the ball around, but we still have to have a strong running game. One of our goals each week is to out-rush the opponent. If you can stop the run and run the football in high school, you’re going to win a lot of games.”
Eastwood’s goals this season are to reclaim the SLL title from Genoa and qualify for the playoffs for the sixth time in eight years. The SLL coaches picked the Eagles to finish second in the SLL behind two-time defending champion Genoa, a Division III state semifinalist last year.
“Our senior class has had a lot of success in football coming up through the younger grades,” Rutherford said. “They haven’t won a league championship. That’s No. 1.”