Anyone familiar with area football knows about the success Oak Harbor has had--multiple conference titles, eight playoff appearances, a program built on running the ball and playing good, stout defense.
Over that 35 year span a number of great running backs like Jake Scott, Aaron McCune, Jake Lipstraw, J.D. Bergman, Jason Osborne and Roger Hamilton have helped build a legacy at the position. For the past two seasons, senior Mark Konieczny has worked to become a part of that select group.
His performance this season easily cemented his status as one of Oak Harbor's all-time greats. In 2012, Konieczny carried the ball 256 times for 1881 yards and 20 touchdowns. He finished with 3405 rushing yards for his career, setting a school record and shattering the previous mark of 2885 yards held by Hamilton, a 1995 graduate. Konieczny was also second in the area in rushing, finishing just behind Genoa running back Kyle Nutter, who rushed for 2058 yards. And, for the second consecutive season, he earned first-team Sandusky Bay Conference honors, doing so each time as a unanimous selection.
|Oak Harbor senior Mark Konieczny (22) gets yardage against Genoa.
(Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.lifepics.com)
After two stellar seasons as the Rockets starting tailback, Konieczny departs with five school records. All five records were set in a season that saw the Rockets go 7-3 overall and finish with a 5-2 mark in the SBC, good for second place in the league. And, for the third consecutive year, Oak Harbor just missed out on qualifying for the playoffs, finishing in 10th place with 13.05 points, just behind 8th-place Upper Sandusky (14.10).
After losing, 43-21, to Genoa in Week 2, Oak Harbor went on a tear, winning five straight games that included dramatic victories over quality opponents in Eastwood (28-21), Edison (42-33) & Huron (27-14). And most importantly, they gave themselves a shot at the SBC crown by heading into the final game of the season against the first-place team, Perkins, with a 5-1 mark in the league, only to fall in heartbreaking fashion to the Pirates.
Despite losing 39-14, the Rockets trailed 14-7 late in the second quarter with Perkins facing a fourth-and-6 from the Oak Harbor 25-yard-line before things turned south. Pirate quarterback Brandon Smith dropped back and, after surveying the field, looked to the end zone for wide receiver Dale Irby, who was covered. The pass, which was woefully underthrown, fell incomplete but the back judge threw a flag for a questionable pass interference penalty, giving Perkins a first down at the 12 and swinging momentum in Pirates' favor. Perkins scored a touchdown on the next play and, from that point forward, the Rockets were never able to seriously threaten.
Although the Rockets fell just short of their goals of winning the conference and qualifying for the postseason, Konieczny can take solace in knowing that he leaves with the following records: (1) career rushing yards (3405); (2) single-season rushing yards (1881); (3) rushing yards in a game (307); (4) rushing touchdowns in a game (5); and (5) yards-per carry average for a season (7.3).
Like any good running back, Konieczny gives credit to his offensive line, a unit anchored by center Zane Troknya. Rounding out the line were guards Mitch Hayslett and Nate Segaard, Dalton Reau at left tackle and Aaron Hopkins and Vince Szabo who split time at right tackle.
“(The line) was great, the stats showed that,” Konieczny said. “I was really lucky both years, I couldn't ask for much more.”
Quarterback Austin Wiegand, who served with Konieczny as one of the team's four captains with Hayslett and Segaard, spoke about what makes Konieczny such a great runner.
“Mark is very smart, patient and understands the game very well,” Wiegand said. “That makes him such a great running back. The difference between Mark and many other backs is his ability to turn a 10-yard gain into a 50-yard gain. Both the line and Mark were fun to watch this season from the quarterback position; they made my job easy.”
Hayslett, Troknya and Reau earned first-team league honors for their performance this season and Segaard was a first-team selection on the defensive line. (Oak Harbor had five other players who were recognized by the league, too: Wiegand Cobi Brough, A.J. Cecil, Cliff Biggert & Ben Genzman.)
Konieczny also credits head coach Mike May and his assistants with doing a quality job of preparing the players during the season and having them work hard during the offseason.
“I think they were phenomenal coaches,” Konieczny said. “We would do our team lifts in the morning (during the summer) and we were real strict on having people at that…If you're there on the weekday mornings, you know they're going to be there on Fridays.”
Another reason for the team's success this season stems from the 15 seniors' commitment to one another and the chemistry the team had.
“We are like brothers, each and every one of us,” Wiegand said. “We love being around each other and football allowed us to become even closer. It spread to the whole team and honestly, we could all be together, sophomores thru seniors without any issues. At the end of the day, we seniors would do anything for one another.”