Second-year Clay football coach Mike Donnelly, a 1993 Clay graduate, never lost in three meetings against Waite when he was in high school.
Last year, his first Eagles team toppled the Indians 37-7 at Mollenkopf Stadium. Donnelly is hoping for more of the same when the two teams meet in the Oil Barrel Trophy Game on Sept. 12 at Clay.
He said playing Waite “was always an emphasis” when the Eagles and Indians met during his playing days as a quarterback at Clay.
Now that the two teams are both members of the City League – Clay was a long-time member of the Great Lakes League – the game is now played for more than bragging rights. The Sept. 12 game is the league opener for both squads.
"Our players consider (Waite) a rival, but it’s not as heated as it once was,” Donnelly said. “They're in our league now and it’s just another game on our league schedule. If you put too much importance on one league game, you’re going to be in trouble.”
Is Waite still Clay’s biggest rival?
“Some people say Whitmer, some say Waite, some say the Catholic schools,” Donnelly said. “It depends on who you talk to."
Waite coach J.J. Johnson, who coached Donnelly in high school, said he still thinks the Clay-Waite rivalry is there.
“Our kids know each other from the neighborhood and some of them moved and then came back here,” Johnson said. “On the East Side, that's as big a game as you're going to see.
“Clay always had that (GLL) rivalry with Whitmer, but this has always been a tough game. You haven't always seen it on the scoreboard, but the kids feel it afterwards. There’s some popping going on. Our kids will be ready to play.”
Johnson’s Indians began the season with a 21-10 loss at home to Maumee, then followed with a 20-0 loss at Sylvania Northview on Aug. 30.
After traveling to Perrysburg on Sept. 5, Waite travels to Clay and then to Libbey, giving the Indians four road games in the first five weeks of 2008.
“You just do the best you can,” Johnson said. “That's the tough part, with the way our schedule is and how there are no easy games. The kids have been playing hard for us. For the kids we've got and as young as they are, I'm real proud of them."
Terryl Mershon had 72 yards on 15 carries and Jake Ryan and Tyler Benton both had good offensive games against Northview, according to Johnson.
The coach also praised senior quarterback Joey Imm and the Indians’ defense, including end Tyler Benton and Ryan at linebacker.
"Joey Imm has really done a nice job for us. I couldn't ask for any more from him,” Johnson said. “He's also our free safety and has done a great job there, too.
“Our defense is playing really well. Our kids have done a nice job. Maumee broke one long one. Besides that, we're right in the ballgame. Maumee had seven turnovers but we just couldn't punch it in."
Clay, meanwhile, hosted Springfield and dual-threat quarterback Eric Page on Sept. 5 before its clash with Waite.
The Eagles, who beat Northview 28-7 in the season opener, had to bounce back from their five-overtime loss at Anthony Wayne on Aug. 30.
“I know for the kids it took a big physical toll,” Donnelly said. “We had four or five kids nicked up at the end. Obviously we were tired. When you lose, it just makes it even worse. I know I was kind of in a funk all weekend."
As for the clash with Waite, Donnelly said his team will be ready.
“It is nice to have a rival as your league opener,” he said. “It catches your attention right off the bat. It gets you focused for league play and sets the tone for how league play is going to go."