The Press Newspaper
For the past six years the winner of the Genoa-Eastwood game determined the Suburban Lakes League/Northern Buckeye Conference champion.
This year, however, Lake might have something to say about that. The Flyers and Comets could both enter next Friday’s contest at Lake with undefeated records. No one would argue that the Flyers, under first-year coach Mark Emans, are the surprise team of the NBC.
Lake, ranked 18th in this week’s Associated Press Division IV state poll, beat Fremont St. Joe, Northwood, Ottawa Hills, Otsego and Woodmore heading into Game 6 at Eastwood.
“Our players have done a nice job preparing themselves for this season,” Emans said. “It started back in May with the weight room attendance and has continued with the way they practice. Being unbeaten right now is due to their hard work. The players are playing with a high level of confidence.”
Emans said the Flyers’ 56-20 win over Northwood, a team they had not beaten since 2005, on Sept. 6 provided a huge confidence boost.
“That was probably the starting point in their confidence level,” he said. “We have a lot of leaders on this team - some seniors, some juniors. They have kept themselves grounded and focused.”
Lake (5-0, 2-0) figures to get a big test Friday night against Eastwood, which lost to Genoa 41-7 last Friday. The Comets (5-0, 2-0), the state’s third-ranked D-IV team, pose an even bigger hurdle. Genoa blasted the Flyers 79-0 a year ago and is averaging nearly 59 points a game this season.
“Eastwood and Genoa have been the top dogs in this league for over 10 years, while we have been pretty much a middle-of-the-road team,” Emans said. “Playing them will give our program a chance to gauge where we are in the process. Genoa is big, fast and strong. They have been in league championship/playoff caliber-type games for many years and they know what it takes to prepare and win those types of games. We look forward to the challenge of playing them.”
The Flyers have shown good balance offensively this season. Running backs Nick Walsh, Marcel Bryan and Brandon Short, and junior quarterback Jared Rettig, have all rushed for at least 195 yards and average no less than 5.3 yards per carry.
Rettig has passed for 979 yards and 14 touchdowns and is averaging 17.8 yards per completion. Junior Todd Walters and sophomore Adam Duncan have 318 and 317 receiving yards, respectively.
Genoa doesn’t have that kind of run-pass balance, but it hasn’t had to. The Comets, who host winless Fostoria this week, are mashing teams on the ground but can beat teams through the air. Senior quarterback Logan Scott has completed just 10 of 19 passes, but he is averaging 32.4 yards per completion and has thrown three touchdown passes.
“Logan has done a remarkable job in being our field general,” Genoa coach Tim Spiess said.
The Comets’ rushing attack is led by 227-pound senior David Nutter, who has 96 carries for 751 yards and eight touchdowns. Casey Gose has 400 yards and six touchdowns on 23 attempts, and Jake Wojciechowski has 369 yards and five touchdowns on 29 carries.
Senior tackle Michael Dieter, a Wisconsin recruit, anchors the offensive line, but Spiess said several others have looked good up front.
“Tyler Baird, Jay Nino and Blake Traver have exceeded my expectations in the middle of our offensive line,” Spiess said. “Nick Herrick is a great offensive tackle. Quentin Spiess has proven to be a valuable asset with blocking and receiving, and I am very pleased with our stable of running backs.”
Genoa’s defense has 16 interceptions, led by Alex Hayes with five. Even Nick Wolfe, a defensive end, has two picks. Coach Spiess, however, said there is still work to be done.
“At this point in time, I think we are playing as well offensively as our 2009 team,” he said of that 11-1 squad. “Defensively, we still have some work to do. We are still missing three starters on the defensive side, but they should all be back soon. After five games, we still have a lot of work to do to realize our goal of being NBC champion. I am very pleased with the play of our offensive line and the blocking of our running backs.”
Next week might not be the last meeting between the Flyers and Comets. Both teams are in Region 12 in the state computer region, and after five weeks Lake was rated No. 4 and Genoa was fifth in the ratings. The top eight teams in each region qualify for the state playoffs at the end of the regular season.
Lake has been in the playoffs twice, in 2000 and ‘01, while Genoa has reached the postseason the last six years. Emans, however, was the coach at Wauseon when the Indians won the D-III state title in 1993.
“Lake has a state champion head coach in Mark Emans,” Spiess said. “I had to prepare for coach Emans on 15 different occasions while I was at Liberty Center. The NWOAL had four different programs win state championships and all four schools had great coaching staffs. I am a better coach today because of those battles.”