Written by Mark Griffin
Friday, 26 September 2008 08:54
All eyes will be on one particular game Oct. 3, when defending Suburban Lakes League champion Genoa travels to preseason favorite Eastwood.
The Comets used a 21-14 home win over Eastwood to claim last year’s league championship. The Eagles, however, got revenge in the second round of the Division IV playoffs at Lake High School, beating Genoa 14-7.
Genoa coach Mike Vicars said he expects next Friday’s clash to be “probably an all-out war.”
“Both teams have to be ready to play very well,” Vicars said. “Either team will capitalize on any mistakes. The biggest thing about that game, both teams have a lot of fast players. They may have the edge in fast players. It will be a high-speed game. Both teams’ passing games have improved.”
Eastwood coach Jerry Rutherford, whose team traveled to Woodmore on Sept. 26, said he was trying not to look ahead to the matchup against the Comets.
“You would guess it would be a league championship-type game,” he said. “We have to take care of business (against Woodmore) first. We haven't had a chance to see Genoa too much, but obviously they're playing real well.”
Eighth-ranked Genoa (5-0, 2-0) is coming off a 63-12 destruction of SLL rival Woodmore. The Comets rushed for 428 yards and forced four turnovers.
The Comets have outscored opponents 248-19 this season and are plus-seven in turnover margin.
“Our defense has played well all year and it's given our offense a chance to mature,” Vicars said. “Now I kinda like how both of them are playing.”
Senior tackle Ryan Bless is one of the Comets’ top defensive players, along with junior end Richard Wonnell.
“Bless is an all-around player - good against the run and a good pass rusher,” Vicars said. “Wonnell is 6-8, 225 and is a good physical presence that people tend to shy away from. He’s really good on the pass rush because of his long reach.
“Connor Wendt, a junior cornerback, plays the run and pass equally well and is solid all around.”
Genoa has welcomed back senior running back/middle linebacker Marcus Vicars, who tore off the tip of his finger against Port Clinton a few weeks ago.
“He played a little bit last week,” coach Vicars said. “His finger's healing well. He had surgery and had a skin graft.”
Genoa’s leading rusher is Blair Skilliter, with 32 carries for 322 yards and six touchdowns. Wendt has 33 carries for 275 yards and five touchdowns, and Greg Hillabrand and Marcus Vicars have 269 and 230 rushing yards, respectively.
Junior quarterback Matt Bassitt has completed 19-of-34 passes for 379 yards and seven touchdowns, with one interception.
“He’s done real well for us,” coach Vicars said. “We’ve been able to open up the passing game more than we have in the past. He's making good decisions.”
Bassitt’s favorite target is Zach Apel, who has 13 catches for 308 yards and five scores.
Coach Vicars was asked if he thought the matchup with Eastwood would turn out to be a bruising low-scoring game or a high-scoring track meet.
“I think we have to keep the score down a little bit,” Vicars said. “They’re so fast. If it gets into a track meet type of situation, it wouldn’t be to our benefit.”
Rutherford said his offense is finally reaching its full potential. Last week, the Eagles (4-1, 2-0) crushed visiting Otsego 76-0 as quarterback Jason Faykosh threw for 279 yards and three TDs and ran for another score.
Eastwood has outscored opponents 232-47 and the Eagles defense has recorded three shutouts.
“I think were coming along offensively,” Rutherford said. “It usually takes us a little time at the beginning of the year. Our offense and defense are both playing pretty well. We thought, defensively, we would be pretty good and the offense would take some time.”
Senior defensive tackle James Morelock leads the Eagles in tackles with 34, including four tackles for loss and one sack. End Clay Rolf has 29 tackles and 4.5 sacks in five games, and junior cornerback Nick Schmeltz has three interceptions.
Faykosh has completed 49-of-65 passes for 708 yards and seven touchdowns, with no interceptions.
“He’s done a great job running the offense,” Rutherford said.
Matt Schlumbohm leads the Eagles in rushing with 362 yards on 34 attempts, including 88 yards on just three carries last week against Otsego. Cody Seifert has 294 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 56 carries.
Rutherford said he won’t know what to expect when Eastwood and Genoa line up next Friday.
“You never know in games like that,” he said. “Honestly, I couldn’t predict right now what will happen.”