Genoa and Woodmore high schools are located just six miles apart, so the geographic rivalry is automatically there.
Add in the fact that the Comets and Wildcats are both members of the Suburban Lakes League, well, that only adds to the luster.
Genoa football coach Mike Vicars, who spent several years as the coach at Delta before coming to Genoa prior to the 2007 season, saw the rivalry up close last season.
Genoa won the game 40-13 and went on to claim the SLL title and a spot in the state playoffs, but its win over Woodmore didn’t come easy.
“I learned that it is a big rivalry,” Vicars said. “Last year our game was 13-6 at halftime. It’s a backyard war where both teams have a lot of respect for each other. They maybe didn’t have their best team, but boy, they came to play. They gave us fits that first half. We had been rolling over everybody at that point, and Woodmore just battled.”
The two teams will renew their rivalry on Sept. 19 in Elmore.
“Each year the game seems to be a hard-hitting, hard-fought one, pitting two schools who have visions of winning the league title,” Genoa Athletic Director Rick Briggle said. “The closeness of the schools adds to the aura. Rest assured, the crowd will be huge.”
Woodmore coach Lou Bosh, in his 11th year, saw his squad come from behind in the second half to beat the Comets two years ago.
Asked if he thought the Wildcats eye Genoa as their biggest rival every year, Bosh said “it kind of goes in spurts.”
“Some years, yes. Some years, no,” he said. “Between Genoa and Gibsonburg being the two closer SLL schools to us, I think they find those two games to be rivalry games. I don’t see them putting too much emphasis on any one team like that.”
Woodmore got off to an 0-3 start this season, losing to Port Clinton 27-26, Fairview 83-52 and Tiffin Calvert 41-14 last Friday. The ‘Cats traveled to Otsego on Sept. 12.
Bosh said Woodmore needs to improve its run defense if it hopes to turn things around.
“We’ve struggled with that within the first three weeks,” he said. “Going into the SLL schedule, we’ve got our work cut out for us. We have to get better in that area and just continue to work on our fundamentals.”
The Wildcats have just seven seniors this season but are getting good leadership from senior quarterback and captain Michael Fahle, according to Bosh.
“He always leads by example,” the coach said of the former wide receiver. “He’s still learning the quarterback spot, but he’s a tough kid who gives you everything he’s got for four quarters.”
Woodmore’s defensive leader is senior outside linebacker Max Nusser, a team captain who registered four sacks and recovered a fumble in the Wildcats’ first two games.
“He’s got good strength and good speed,” Bosh said. “He started for us last year at defensive end and outside linebacker and worked hard in the offseason. He’s done a lot of good things and been a good leader for us.”
Bosh said this year’s squad will try not to make the same mistakes it made against Genoa last season.
“We made a couple mistakes in the first half that, when you go into a game of that caliber and you’re playing a team like Genoa and the way they were playing at that point, we can’t afford to make mistakes,” Bosh said. “I’m certain our kids are ready to play.”
Heading into their Sept. 12 game against Elmwood, the Comets had easy victories over Mohawk, Oak Harbor and Port Clinton, allowing just seven total points.
“The first thing is we’re very athletic and very fast,” Vicars said. “We’re able to get to the ball well. Even when we make mistakes, we’ve been able to overcome them because of the fact we have a fast group of kids.”
Genoa had one turnover, a fumble, in three games and is getting solid play from junior quarterback Matt Bassitt. He has completed 65 percent of his passes and thrown for 350 yards and seven TDs.
“And he’s only been sacked once, which is a bonus,” Vicars said.
The coach added that his son, Marcus, a senior tailback and middle linebacker, would sit out the Elmwood game after losing the top part of his left index finger on the second play of the game last week.
“He’s got an open wound that (had) to be closed with surgery on Thursday,” coach Vicars said. “We think it was stepped on. He was wearing gloves that night, and he never wears gloves. There was a sharp edge somewhere.
“We’re hoping to have him back against Woodmore. I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years of coaching.”
Junior Alex Eckel took over for Vicars at middle linebacker last week and “did a nice job,” coach Vicars said. “I was real proud of him. He was put in a tough situation.”
The Comets were ranked 12th in last week’s Division IV Associated Press poll. That was fine with Vicars, he said, just as long as the players remember what got them there.
“We talk about it and tell them about it to motivate them to practice at that level and stay there,” Vicars said. “It’s a fun thing for them. At the same time, to be rewarded at that level, it requires a certain level of commitment.”