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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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No, it’s not too likely that he’ll ever go on to lead a top NFL team to three big-time professional football league championships, like near-mythical Native American gridder Jim Thorpe did while with the legendary Canton Bulldogs in the early 1900s.

Nor will he probably ever earn as notorious, or as colorful of a nickname as Red “the Galloping Ghost” Grange earned, while grinding it out for the celebrated 1920s “Monsters of the Midway” Chicago Bears, for whom he literally struck cold, hard fear into the very hearts of their opponents, to the punishing tune of 569 tough rushing yards, and 32 touchdowns, on his nine-year, Hall of Fame career.

Further, don’t expect him to one day get drafted to lug a scarred-up, worn-down pigskin for the likes of such storied, rough-and-tumble pro football franchises as the Pottsville Maroons, the Dayton Triangles, or the Frankford Yellow Jackets either, if indeed any of these harbingers of the game’s yesteryears were ever reincarnated, to help throw a cold, sobering bucket of good, old, American blood and guts on the increasingly-watered-down, powder-puff-esque National Football League. Though all of that aside, indisputably-classic, entirely-unselfish, multi-role throwback player Seth Dufendock of the 2007-2008 back-to-back Suburban Lakes League champion Genoa football Comets, has a lot more in common with all of those aforementioned early pioneers of pure, hard-nosed, golden-age football than one might think.

No, you probably won’t ever see him pulling on an old-fashioned, leather-style football helmet anytime soon either, as the tough, prestigious state playoffs once again lower their heads, and come busting through the dust of Genoa’s 10-0 (7-0 SLL) regular campaign, and into the rapid-beating heart of “Comet Country” for the second-straight time in two unprecedented, historic seasons. But still, the sensational sophomore is nonetheless heads and modern-day, space-age plastic shoulder pads above the rest of his other 56, stacked-and-packed Comet teammates, or at least that is when it comes to being a true ambassador of football’s earliest, grittier days, as not only has he served as one of the many, true, scarred-up bricks in the seemingly-immovable foundation of the mighty maroon-and-gray’s back-to-back championship runs in ’07 and ’08. But much like late, great Indian warrior Thorpe himself, and the ethereal “Galloping Ghost,” and the many other legendary, lacerated, bumped, bruised, broken-fingered, bloody-nosed, larger-than-life men who have come before him, and paved a hard-wrought road, and made football so much fun to watch for the rest of us, the sturdy, hard-boiled Dufendock has toiled in relative anonymity in upwards of six different positions plus special teams this championship-defending season, to help get his team there. Which at least in this humble sportswriter’s mind, has made him worthy of the much-deserved moniker of “Superman.”

“Let’s see, I’ve played at a safety position, at linebacker, at fullback, at halfback, at quarterback, and at one of the defensive ends as a sophomore,” reaffirms the rather-quiet, altogether-unassuming, all-purpose utility player somewhat reluctantly, who when prodded, slowly relents that as early as fifth and sixth-grade pee-wee football, he had already started to earn a reputation as a fearless, young wide receiver, a dependable, stand-in-the-pocket quarterback, and something of a versatile “everyman” who was always willing to strap it on, and play wherever his coaches needed him to for the then 14-0 Genoa Little Comets, which in turn made him an easy shoe-in for the renowned Jim Kingery Award as a team leader on the sixth-grade squad, which is given out at the conclusion of each season to the Little Comet most valuable player who shows the most heart, the most courage, and the most effort out there every fall, and is named after the late, great Little Comet coach and architect, behind Genoa’s outstanding pee-wee program. “So, yeah, if you add them all up, I guess I’d have to say I’ve probably played at least six or seven positions in all, if you count special teams, too, this year.”

“But my main starting position as a sophomore has been over at defensive end,” continues the surprisingly-mild-mannered bookend on that staunch, and super-stingy Comet “D,” who usually plays opposite 6-8, 225 lb. freak of nature, and local cult hero “Big” Richard Wonnell, and is one of the many, many reasons that this unit has allowed only a sick, league-low, quite-possibly history-making 68 points in 11 contests in 2008 (in addition, the formidable Comets have either blanked, or held nine of their 11 opponents to single digits) , “and I think I’ve played pretty well out there so far, or I mean at least the coaches have seemed to be impressed, at how I’ve adopted the position as my own, and adapted to it after playing strictly at linebacker as a freshman. Because with my new position, I sometimes also have to drop into pass coverage, and defend against any pass routes coming out my way into the flats, so I don’t know, I think I’ve played pretty good at defensive end this year.”

“But I don’t know, my favorite part about playing the defensive end position is getting all these opportunities to hit the opposing quarterbacks,” adds Genoa’s newest, and perhaps youngest man of tempered, unbendable steel with the slightest of little, satisfied smiles, whom you can bet once he puts on that muddied, tattered-and-torn, grass-stained maroon and gray cape come Friday nights in G-Town and beyond, is capable of piling up whole phone booths of sacks-upon-sacks, as fiery head coach Mike Vicars says that “Superman” Seth above and beyond leads his team of fellow rabid, blood-smelling, hungry pit-bulls in hits on opposing signal callers through 11 games including last Friday night’s blowout 47-21 Division IV playoff victory over a stunned, and once-deemed more-seasoned Huron Tigers team at Comet Stadium, and once even further solidified his new-found superhero status by notching like five big-time, game-altering sacks on formidable Eastwood Eagles’ quarterback Jason Faykosh during yet another mid-season clash-of-the-SLL-titans on a Friday night in Pemberville last month, for all of the conference marbles.

“If I had to describe my playing style? I don’t know, I guess I would just say that I always play very aggressively, and that I really don’t back down from anybody, ever,” continues the gutsy 15-year-old, who already as a quietly emerging freshman prospect in ’07, not only earned a coveted place at the bounteous varsity table, but also a permanent footnote in rich Genoa athletic history, as well as probably much-more important to him, the respect of the family of the Comets’ then-more-experienced, more-battle-hardened upperclassmen players as a bonafide headhunter, when he recorded the first-ever tackle in the program’s first-ever post-season playoff outing against the Fighting Scots of Sparta Highland, as a then crowd-pleasing special teams assassin. “Really, I don’t care how big you are out there. If you’re bigger than me, I’ll hit you anyway. I mean, that’s always been my favorite part of the game.”

Still, perhaps we need to pull up for a moment or two, lest one thinks that Genoa’s own throwback man of steel is surprisingly, and suddenly waxing arrogant about his self-described reckless, devil-may-care style of play, and his defensive statistics that continue to soar into the stratosphere towards the planet Krypton like a rocket-propelled speeding bullet, because he’s not. Because after all, if you really do indeed know Seth, all he truly is and wants to be is simply a pleasant, but often oh, so painful reminder from the football of yesterday playing in the modern high school game, who believes that he has a job to do for his team. And that you always show up, and clock in, and do it to the best of your ability when the bossman tells you to do it, each and every Friday night. Whether the mercury is climbing into the unmerciful 90s like it was in the ’08 season opener against Mohawk way back in late August, settling over your sore bones like the very creeping, cold frosts of fall like it was for Homecoming versus Lakota, it’s wet, and muddy, and sloppy like it was in Bloomdale, or you’re playing with the nastiest of flues, the most severe cold, or the most painful of broken bones. Which for all intents and purposes for the Comets’ 11 reeling opponents in ’08 so far, has been akin to a brand of football that’s been about as pleasant as being quietly smacked upside the head with an old, beaten-up, metal lunchbox filled with a good, old-fashioned, protein-loaded, American peanut butter sandwich, a hearty thermos of hot, homemade soup, a carton of icy, cold milk for strong bones, and a ton of immovable, chipped-up bricks.

For make no mistake about it, it’s been the durable, blue-collar lunchbox of an equally-durable, blue-collar, old-school football player, that’s so rightfully and poetically spilled the blood of himself, most certainly many of his ill-fortuned SLL opponents, and sometimes even a few of his own Comet brothers-in-arms upon the various fields of battle to do everything possible to help get that win and continue to forge together the foundation of this burgeoning, 23-game, 21-2 Genoa High School football dynasty, as well as a bountiful feat of meaty, stick-to-your-ribs, but oh, so sweet gridiron memories, that have also gone a very long way in helping to sustain the newly perpetually-SLL title hungry, state championship-starved appetites, of the hardworking, blue-collar members of “Comet Nation.”

Like that tasty appetizer that Dufendock served up earlier this season during the wet, and wild Hurricane Ike Lite Bowl against dangerous SLL contender Elmwood in Bloomdale on a week four Friday night, when in the Comets’ tone-setting conference opener “Superman” Seth literally came storming across the slippery and soaked quagmire of a field, and to the aid of slighter teammate and ball-hawking safety Scotty Traver, who had gone up in the air to wrestle with a much-bigger, much-taller Royals’ receiver for the football on a critical fourth and long Reid Rothenbuhler pass that quite possibly could’ve put the home team right back in the game, to separate the offensive player from both the pigskin and his teammate with an earthquake blast that could not only be felt way up in the creaky visitors’ stands, but also had the Comet faithful who had diligently made the approximately 40-minute trip in the driving wind, and cold, miserable rain listening into the gusting gales, to see if they could hear a hint of legendary ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman, sidekick Tom Jackson, and the rest of the crew proclaiming, “Oh! He was jacked up!,” somewhere back in a warm, dry studio in Bristol.

Again, a voracious, tenacious sack monster who is not afraid to sacrifice his own body or the bodies of his fellow teammates whenever he smells blood in the water to get his hands on the opposing quarterback, then there was also that time way back in week two when his Comets were playing host to their perennial thorn-in-the-side nemesis the Oak Harbor Rockets, where upon closing in on O.H. QB Brad Perry, he hit the junior signal caller low, and drove through him so hard, that he ended up splitting open the chin of self-described role model, Comet teammate, perpetual Genoa run stuffer, and anchor on the defensive line Ryan Bless, who had tackled Perry high, which will no doubt go down as a memory that the two friends will probably bring up and joke about for years to come after they‘ve finally hung up their maroon and gray jerseys, and whenever they reminisce about that magical August night when together with the rest of their team they finally broke the Rockets’ hold on them with a dominating 63-0 win, and picked up the pieces in their first-ever Celestial Bowl victory, and the program’s first in nearly 10 long years.

Sure, “Superman” Seth has always proven to be something a little more than human in ‘08, especially when it comes to quietly demonstrating his proud workingman’s penchant for showing up to work every Friday night, clocking in for Coach Vicars and the boys, strapping on his hardhat, and taking the opposing signal caller out back to the woodshed, as throughout the tireless defensive end’s breakout sophomore season, Dufendock has quite literally gone “overtime” on the opposition’s tuckered-out, beaten-up QBs, gobbling up four loose balls in the process, forcing another four on cold, hard hits, taking one back for a breathtaking 63-yard touchdown return against backyard, fellow blue-collar rivals Woodmore back in week five in Elmore, and another for 40 yards against Lake, finishing somewhere in the very respectable top five in team tackles, on an unquestionably-dominant Comet defense that also without question will go down as one of the best, stingiest units in recent maroon and gray memory, if not in all of storied Genoa Football history, when the 2008 playoff dust finally clears, and of course notching that whole phone booth’s worth of super-human effort, multi-sack games, like the two he grounded the sputtering Flyers with in week nine, the three he downed the up-and-coming Gibsonburg Golden Bears with in game eight, and that aforementioned five-pack he dumped on the SLL contender Eagles to help fizzle out their hopes for another conference title, all of which for the rather quiet, unassuming, strong, and silent Dufendock, have really been no big deal, and just another part of an honest, average, ordinary every day’s work.

Though let’s not forget, like Thorpe, Red Grange, and the often-rusty, sometimes-unheralded pantheon of rough, tough, gritty, bent-nosed, broken-fingered golden age footballers who have come before him, this classic, multi-role throwback player, unselfish sack master, and “Superman” of the working class has quite often been willing to play not only two ways, or three ways, or five ways, but sometimes seven different ways to help his team get a win, in the event that one of his teammates has gone down, or if Coach Vicars has simply called on him. But like stated earlier, he’s also brought his old, beaten-up lunchbox to the offensive side of the ball, where he once literally opened it up, and force-fed the Wildcats a kryptonite sandwich on September 19 , where he played five different positions in one ballgame, summoned up the guts and gas to somehow return that Woodmore fumble 63 yards for a touchdown, threw a 53-yard strike to senior sensation at wide receiver Zach “Latino Fire” Apel, and pounded out 75 yards on the ground rushing as a utility halfback and fullback, which he modestly calls his best outing in a Comet uniform ever.

Yet, also like stated before, his equally-as-modest 195 yards or so rushing for three touchdowns on the year probably won’t ever win him three big-time National Football League championships like the Indian warrior, get him mentioned as quite possibly the greatest, grittiest ball carrier of all time like the “Ghost,” earn him a tryout with tomorrow’s sudden second-coming of the Maroons, or on most ordinary, average, everyday Saturday mornings, even garner him equal billing on a majority of local sports pages with bonafide Comet rock stars and glamour gridders like Blair “Iron Man” Skilliter, fireball-hurling Matt Bassitt, and Apel, though when the dust of the super-successful 2008 season finally settles, maybe Dufendock is just fine with that.

Indeed, maybe for “Superman” Seth, that is what pure, hard-nosed football is all about, coming to work every Friday night, and clocking in, and doing whatever it is that you can, to get that win, or whatever the coach asks you to do.

Maybe the game is about every man knowing his role, and those blue-collar role players like himself toiling in the most broiling of suns, the most freezing of cold nights, and with broken noses, and cobbled up fingers until the stadium lights go down, just to make the headline grabbers look a little better, even though their own names rarely ever get seen up in lights.

Maybe that’s all Dufendock really wants to be.

And maybe, just maybe, Jim Thorpe, Red “the Galloping Ghost” Grange, and those other infinite golden-age gridders from football’s glorious, rough-and-tumble past, are looking down, and smiling a chipped-tooth grin, from that great, hard-scrabble gridiron in the sky.

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