The Press Newspaper
It is a certainty that Eastwood's current players have more postseason experience than Saturday night's Division IV playoff opponent, Galion.
Coach Jerry Rutherford, in his 28th year, has led the Eagles to the state playoffs six times in the past eight years, including three years running.
Galion, located in Crawford County, ended a 20-year playoff drought this season. The Tigers won the Division II state title in 1985, beating Youngstown Cardinal Mooney 6-0 in the finals, and also qualified in 1986 and '89.
Rutherford, however, said the Eagles' recent playoff experience won't be much of a factor against Galion (10-0), which hosts Eastwood (8-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday, November 8.
"Galion played 10 games and went 10-0 and had close games in some big-time atmosphere, so I don't know if it will be any advantage for us or a disadvantage for them," Rutherford said. "They're playing at home and we're traveling. Our seniors played 13 games as sophomores and played 11 games last year, so they are used to playing more than 10 weeks."
Eastwood is 4-5 all-time in the playoffs, all under Rutherford's watch. The Eagles have won playoff games against Upper Sandusky (2002), Napoleon (2004), Elyria Catholic (2007) and Genoa (2007).
Galion, the Northern Ohio League champion, is averaging 28.9 points a game and allowing 16.6 points per game. Eastwood, the runner-up in the Suburban Lakes League, is averaging 36.8 points and allowing 17.7 points per game.
Eastwood and Galion have never faced each other on the football field.
"By their roster they look like a senior (dominated) group who last year went 5-5 as juniors," Rutherford said. "This is their year and they're turning their program around. This is probably a pretty neat story for them, to go 10-0. They have pretty skilled athletes in the backfield and they have a lot of similarities to our team."
The Eagles, the No. 8 seed in the Region 14 computer ratings, beat two teams that finished 0-10 (Rossford, Otsego) and lost to two teams that finished 10-0 (Genoa, Patrick Henry). The combined record of Eastwood's foes this season is 47-53.
Galion's opponents finished with a combined record of 42-58. The top-seeded Tigers beat three teams with winning records - Colonel Crawford (6-4), Bucyrus (8-2) and Tiffin Columbian (7-3) - none of whom made the playoffs.
Galion, ranked seventh in the final Associated Press state poll, is one of eight undefeated teams in Division IV.
Eastwood needed to beat Gibsonburg in the final game of the regular season to have any shot of making the playoffs. The Eagles beat the Golden Bears 34-6 behind five touchdown runs from sophomore running back Pernell Conner.
Conner and senior Cody Seifert are Eastwood's top two rushers, with 942 and 941 yards, respectively. Conner has carried 156 times and scored 15 touchdowns, while Seifert has 121 carries and 14 scores.
Senior quarterback Clayton Ruch has played in eight games and completed 31-of-76 passes for 424 yards and four touchdowns, with six interceptions.
Seifert has 12 catches for 240 yards and two TDs, and senior tight end Clay Rolf has 12 catches for 211 yards and three TDs.
Kicker Taylor Depew is 8-for-9 on field goals, including a 47-yarder, and is 44-for-46 on extra points.
On defense, senior inside linebacker Seth Hoffmann leads the Eagles with 93 tackles, including six for loss, to go along with 7.5 sacks. Senior safety Jake Rogers has three interceptions.
Rutherford said the Eagles didn't know they had made the playoffs until Saturday night, following Oak Harbor's win over Sandusky St. Mary.
"We had to fight to the end to get in," Rutherford said. "We were kind of written off after we got beat 54-11 by Genoa, but then we got it going. Then we get beat 35-0 by Patrick Henry and everybody wrote us off completely.
"It's kind of like maybe we were meant to be in it. It's been a tough year with injuries and stuff. Now, we get a second chance. Our schedule has gotten us ready for this. We played at Clyde and had a tough game at Lake. I think we'll be ready."