The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Not to worry, Clay football fans. Eric Page is now a freshman wide receiver/kick returner at the University of Toledo.

That's good news for Coach Mike Donnelly and the rest of the Eagles, who host Page's former high school team, Springfield, on Sept. 11.

Page, a lightning-quick quarterback for the Blue Devils, was the Division II Co-Offensive Player of the Year last season after rushing for 2,381 yards and 34 touchdowns and passing for 1,102 yards and 11 TDs. He also kicked 47 extra points.

"We're very glad Page is gone," said Donnelly, whose team beat Springfield 34-28 last season. "The last two years he was pretty much their offense. It's going to be difficult for our defense preparation-wise. In the past you were only focusing on one person. This year they will be more than a one-man show."

Clay opened the season with a 16-3 win at Northview and hosts two other Northern Lakes League teams, Perrysburg and Springfield, before heading into its City League schedule. The Blue Devils lost their opener to visiting Oak Harbor, 14-0.

Donnelly said playing three NLL teams "is good preparation for the City League."

"A lot of us play good, quality (non-league) opponents," he said. "Since the NLL fits so well demographically, we're very similarly matched against those teams. It's good for us from both perspectives."

In their Aug. 28 opener, the Eagles trailed Northview 3-0 at halftime but got on the board in the third quarter on a 73-yard TD pass from junior quarterback Josh Utter to Bobby Hoffman.

Clay's defense scored a safety in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles added another touchdown on a 17-yard run from Kyle Stevenson.

"I was very pleased with the way the defense played," Donnelly said. "They played hard and put pressure on the quarterback. We gave up very few big plays, and from that standpoint I was very happy.

"Offensively, we were happy with the passing game. That was a nice surprise. We were 11-of-14 for 170 yards and for the most part we had good pass protection. The run game, we obviously need to improve there. We had three running backs in the game and the young guys stepped up, which was a nice surprise."

Utter made his first start under center against the Wildcats.

"Josh did great job stepping up in the pocket, and he made good decisions," Donnelly said. "He only made one questionable read, but he managed the game very well. That's what we ask from the quarterback position, to manage the game and not make mistakes. He did exactly what we wanted him to do."

Clay's offense rushed for just 108 yards, but the defense recorded four sacks and had 22 hits on the quarterback through three quarters. Senior tackle Josh Schmitz and senior linebackers Mike Ackerman and Ryan Brandeberry led the defense.

"The No. 1 area we need to improve on defensively is getting off the field on third downs," Donnelly said. "Offensively, our line was fairly solid but not aggressive enough in the run game. That needs to improve. Instead of sitting back and waiting on our opponent, we need to attack them. We also lost two fumbles, so we need to hold onto the ball."

Springfield, which was picked to finish sixth in the eight-team NLL, has a first-year coach in Vince Marrow, a former NFL tight end who played and coached at UT.

"I met him a couple times when I was hanging out with Greg Dempsey at Central," Donnelly said. "They're going to play a ball-possession, control offense. They're a little bit conservative in nature. He's going to run a little bit of a spread and more two-back in the offense. Defensively, they're going to bring the same defense they ran at UT. I expect them to be very aggressive."

Springfield returns 14 lettermen from last year's team, which finished 6-4 and 4-3 in the NLL. The Blue Devils, who had five turnovers against Oak Harbor, return five starters on offense and four on defense.

Leroy Alexander, a 6-2, 180-pound sophomore, has replaced Page at quarterback. The Blue Devils have a strong defensive line that includes senior tackles Christian Pfaff (6-3, 250) and Kenny Guercio (6-0, 220), senior end Josh Chung (6-2, 230) and junior end Drew Weimer (6-5, 240).

Against the Rockets, Blue Devil quarterback Dirk Ruckman completed 5-of-19 passes for 77 yards, but with the four interceptions. Three of Ruckman’s passes were completed to Glandoy Hill for 48 yards, including one that covered 33 yards.