Last Friday night the Oak Harbor football team's post-game locker room was the exact opposite of last season's opener, when the Rockets got thumped by visiting Springfield 58-0.
Second-year coach Mike May's Rockets got payback on Aug. 28, beating the host Blue Devils 14-0 to spoil the unveiling of Springfield's new stadium.
"The kids were excited," said May, whose team looks to rebound from last year's 2-8 record. "We noticed they were focused and pretty anxious before the game. It was big for us after the way last year went and with everything that was going on, with the dedication of their new stadium and everything else going on. I was proud of our victory."
Oak Harbor produced just 191 yards of offense, but the defense forced five turnovers and limited Springfield to 184 yards.
Junior linebacker Jake Scott had two interceptions and forced a fumble, and senior cornerback Brad Perry also had two interceptions. Junior lineman D.J. Everett recovered a fumble for the Rockets, who led 14-0 at halftime.
The win showed Oak Harbor's players and coaching staff that things are moving in the right direction. Last year, May took over for Gary Quisno, who annually had the Rockets playing for Sandusky Bay Conference championships and state playoff berths.
"We didn't really talk much about last year, other than when we first started back in the weight room after last season," May said. "We talked about what just happened and what we need to do to get better. Since then, we were just looking forward to what we need to do and looking forward to this year."
May said having a year under his belt to work with the players has helped tremendously. May came to Oak Harbor after three years as an assistant at Elmwood and eight years as the defensive coordinator at St. Mary’s Memorial.
"The biggest thing was having an offseason together with the kids," he said. "We started right after last season. The year before that, I was driving two hours during school hours from St. Mary's. During last summer I was still driving back and forth.
"We've talked a lot about being a family and trusting one another. We really didn't have that last year, but we were able to build on that last year."
In the win over Springfield, senior running back Matt Klippstein rushed for 82 yards on eight carries and scored on a 2-yard run in the first quarter to give the Rockets a 7-0 lead.
Junior quarterback Steve Young tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to junior split end Zach Priesman in the second quarter for Oak Harbor's other score. Young completed 7-of-13 passes for 63 yards.
"We played hard for 48 minutes and handled adversity," May said. "We did a real good job with that. When things didn't go well, we just kept plugging away and playing hard and worked through adversity. It was important to set the tone for the season and also to gain confidence. Our kids gained a lot of confidence from Week 1, and that allows us to move forward the rest of the year."
Defensively, Everett had nine tackles against the Blue Devils while senior linebacker Mike Mallernee had seven tackles and senior tackle Zach Sandwisch added six tackles and two sacks.
"Our kids ran to the football and played physical on defense," May said. "I thought we were physical on offense. Our kids really came out and hit them on both sides of the ball."
One game does not make a successful season, and the Rockets have a tough schedule in front of them beginning Sept. 4 at home against Genoa. Oak Harbor then travels to Eastwood before opening SBC play Sept. 18 at home against Quisno's Sandusky Perkins squad.
"We have to improve quite a bit in every area," May said. "That's exciting, because we're on the right track. But, we have a long ways to go to get better."