Every team needs a guy like Kaleb Maguire.
He is an undersized linebacker, now injured, who has a great work ethic. Oak Harbor coaches say he leads by example and plays hard-nosed football while serving as a leader for his team.
At 6-foot-1, 155 pounds, Maguire is smaller than some defensive backs, let alone linebackers. But you wouldn't know it from watching him play. What Maguire lacks in size, he makes up for with his athleticism and intelligence, something that has proved to be critical in helping to rebuild an Oak Harbor program that is again competing for league titles and playoff spots.
|Oak Harbor linebacker Kaleb Maguire.
(Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEH
This season, Maguire, who played alongside three senior linebackers last season, was faced with the task with having to get four other new players used to playing the position. This season, Cobi Brough, Hunter Gresh, Jared Chambers and Ben Genzman have complemented Maguire and helped to fill the four linebacking positions in Oak Harbor's 4-4-3 defense. And Genzman, after seeing action linebacker early in the season, is now playing defensive end.
As time went on, Maguire played a role in helping his fellow linebackers become more acclimated to playing at the varsity level.
“Experience (is) a big thing,” Maguire said, “(but) we all just put in a lot of work during two-a-days. We busted our butts to be the best we could. (The guys) just (assumed) their roles and I didn't really have to help too much. We all did our thing and played together.”
This season, Maguire helped lead a defense that has held opponents to 21 points or less in six of its nine games as the Rockets went 7-2 and put themselves in position to qualify for the postseason. Oak Harbor was ranked ninth in Division IV, Region 14 with 12.59 points, just 0.4 of a point behind Kenton, the eighth-ranked team. They would have had to move one up spot after last Friday night’s game with Perkins to get into the playoffs.
Maguire also contributed to the team by helping to get his brother Jourdan, the team's kicker, to go out for the team this season. Jourdan, a sophomore, set the school's single game record by connecting on all nine of his extra point attempts in the Rockets' 63-6 win over Sheffield Brookside in Week 1. And save for a few blocks, Jourdan has connected on all of his PATs this season, providing stability at a critical position.
Kaleb also has other family members that have helped to make the program what it is today.
His cousin, Brandon Harder, a 2001 OHHS graduate, played running back and cornerback and was a two-way starter on Oak Harbor's 1999 team that advanced to the D-IV state semifinal. Harder's brother, Brock, was a freshman on the '06 team that was also advanced to a D-IV state semifinal and was one of the team's top running backs during his junior season.
“That's part of the reason that I wear No. 30 — Brock and Brandon both wore (that number),” he said. “Just watching (Brandon and Brock) have the community support them on Friday nights motivated me to play. They told me, 'It's important to always give 100 percent (and) leave it all out on the field. Just do your best.'
“All we do every week is try and be the more physical team. That's what Coach May is always telling us.”
Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse when Maguire tore his Achilles' tendon on Oct. 16 in practice, ending his career. Despite the injury, Maguire can take solace in knowing that he and his fellow 14 seniors have led Oak Harbor to a 5-1 league record and a shot at their first Sandusky Bay Conference title in six years.
Oddly enough, Maguire partially tore his Achilles' tendon during football last year and fought through the injury for roughly a year in basketball and baseball last year as well as football this season.
Oak Harbor coach Mike May says he is proud of Maguire and what he's accomplished.
“Kaleb is a leader by example,” said May. “He always works hard and plays above his ability. He's (somewhat) limited athletically if you look at him, but he always plays hard, he's a very smart football player and we know we can always count on him to play hard on Friday Night. He's worked hard, he's paid the price. He studies the game, studies film and put himself in the right positions (during the games).”
May acknowledged that it was difficult seeing one of his team's marquee players suffer such a serious injury.
“It was tough because you think about him (and his situation),” May said. “We talked to the team (and told) them you can't take anything for granted because you never know what play might be your last. He'd really been playing hurt all year because (his heel) wasn't 100 percent. He was fighting through (the injury) all year and it finally caught up with him.
“We could always count on Kaleb, no doubt about it,” May continued, noting that Maguire never missed a weight-lifting session during his football career. “(Kaleb) can look back and be proud of everything he accomplished. He had a great football career. You can always count on Kaleb. In the classroom, he gets the job done and in athletics, he gets the job done. He's just a good all-around kid.”