Since at least 2007, fans associated with Suburban Lakes League/Northern Buckeye Conference football have pretty much considered the showdown between Eastwood and Genoa to be the game of the year.
It wasn’t always that way.
The Eagles, who travel to Genoa on Sept. 27, won eight straight against the Comets from 1999-2006, and many of the final margins weren’t pretty. From 2002-2006, Eastwood won by scores of 42-0, 49-12, 55-0, 57-0 and 45-0.
In 2007, coach Mike Vicars took over at Genoa and turned the Comets’ program into a perennial playoff participant and league champion. The Comets, who lead the all-time series against Eastwood, 31-24, have won four of the last five meetings including last year’s 21-10 victory.
The Eagles, who beat Genoa, 25-23, in 2011, bring a 2-1 record into next Friday’s game.
“Hopefully, this will be another exciting game,” Eastwood coach Jerry Rutherford said.
The Eagles had a difficult pre-NBC schedule, having won at Patrick Henry in the opener and then losing to Clyde, which has looked impressive with wins over Tiffin Columbian, Eastwood and last year’s state runner-up, Bellevue. Eastwood walloped Oak Harbor, 56-7, a week ago.
“I’m hoping we continue to improve,” Rutherford said. “Playing and scrimmaging the teams that we do constantly exposes areas that we need to improve. Defensively, we returned quite a few guys from last year and we are playing faster and more aggressively.”
Senior quarterback Jake Schmeltz directs Eastwood’s offense and passed for 220 yards and five touchdowns through three games.
“Jake is a three-year starter and has started 25 games in his career,” Rutherford said. “He takes care of the ball and he understands what we're trying to do.”
Junior Devin Snowden leads a balanced rushing attack, with 204 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries (7.3 average).
Genoa (3-0) destroyed its first three opponents, Waite, Oak Harbor and Port Clinton, but will get a much stiffer test against Eastwood.
“To me, it’s my favorite game of the year,” said Tim Spiess, the Comets’ second-year coach who took over for Vicars last season after five years as a Genoa assistant. “I think of all the teams we play, it’s nice going up against veteran leadership. You know those Eastwood teams are going to be very sound fundamentally. Even though the two schools are rivals, I would consider us friendly rivals.”
Genoa has done just fine offensively despite the graduation of the school’s all-time rushing leader, Kyle Nutter, who is now playing at the University of Cincinnati.
Senior David Nutter, Kyle’s brother, leads Genoa in rushing with 335 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries. Jake Wojciechowski, a junior, has 309 yards and four TDs on just 15 carries (20.6 average), and senior Casey Gose has 183 yards and four scores on six carries (30.5 average). Gose leads the team with nine total touchdowns.
“I’m very pleased with our running backs,” Spiess said. “You can’t replace Kyle Nutter, so you replace Kyle with five or six running backs and that’s basically what we’ve done.”
Senior quarterback Logan Scott has completed just eight passes in three games, but two have gone for touchdowns and he is averaging 26.3 yards per completion.
“Logan has been very good so far,” Spiess said. “We’ve been working on our quarterback running game, and he’s progressed very nicely with that.”
Spiess said the Comets’ defense is still ahead of the offense right now, and he is thrilled with their special teams play. Genoa has already scored five touchdowns on special teams. Senior tackles Michael Dieter and Blake Traver, who had 16 tackles last week against Port Clinton, lead the defense, which has 10 interceptions.
Genoa outscored its first three opponents by a 212-33 margin, including last week’s 84-13 rout of Port Clinton. The Comets rushed for 533 yards and scored on offense, defense and special teams against the Redskins. The 84 points is a school single-game scoring record.
“It’s an unfortunate school record,” Spiess said. “We scored 84 points despite our freshmen playing over 20 snaps. We played six quarterbacks at least five plays each. The first half, we had 11 offensive plays and scored 41 points. We only had the ball for 3:30 of the first half, when we played 42 different players. We did what we could to keep (the score) down.”
Eastwood junior Devin Snowden (20) leads blocking for junior back Grant Geiser (4) in Eagle’s loss to Clyde. (Press photo by Lee Welch/FamilyPhotoGroup.com)
Genoa back Jake Wojciechowski dives for extra yardage. (Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.lifepics.com)
Cody Pickard kicks 54 yard field goal against Port Clinton. (Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.lifepics.com)