Eagles, Rockets rekindle a rivalry from the past

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

Two of the area’s best high school football teams are set to face off yet again with a league title and playoff positioning on the line.
Eastwood and Oak Harbor, both of whom are looking to finish the regular season strong and make a run in the postseason, will face off in week nine.
Currently, the Rockets, who are 7-0 and 4-0 in the Northern Buckeye Conference, are ranked fourth in the Division V, Region 18 standings with 11.56 points, just behind Genoa, which has 11.64 points.
The Eagles are 6-1 and 4-0 in the conference and have won their last four games by no less than 39 points apiece. The lone loss for Eastwood came against Wauseon in week three. The Eagles are ninth in Region 18 with 8.46 points. The loss to the Indians was a wake-up call for Eastwood.
“I feel a lot better than I did a couple weeks ago. I think that losing to Wauseon, as much as it hurt, and as much as we had some tough situations on the field, we left (points) on the field, I think it helped the kids focus and listen to what we were trying to tell them,” said Eastwood coach Sam Cotterman. “We made huge strides, and we’re a much better team now. I’m excited about where we are.”
Eastwood’s last game was a 62-20 win over Fostoria.
The Eagles jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. Kadyn Donnell had a 34-yard touchdown run with 8:13 left in the first quarter, Caiden Maize ran for a 5-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 14 points and Donnell connected with Dayquan Oliver for a 25-yard touchdown with 7:51 left to play in the second quarter.
Maize finished with four touchdowns and Donnell factored into four scores.
Eastwood finishes the season with games against the Rockets and Genoa, which will provide them the chance to win the conference and gain some valuable computer points.
“These last two games are huge. If we would be able to win the last (few) games, it would be huge in moving us up in the rankings,” said Cotterman. “It would be awesome to have a home game in the playoffs, but we’ll take it one at a time.
“In the NBC, you have to be ready each week to play. We’ve had a couple games where the final score wasn’t indicative of what it was like in the first and second quarters. Depending on a couple of things, those games could’ve gone a different way. Add Maumee and Oak Harbor to the conference, and it makes the league tougher.”
The teams were both in the old Suburban Lakes League from 1972-86, and there were some great games between Gary Quisno’s and Jerry Rutherford’s clubs. Quisno was at Oak Harbor for 29 years and Rutherford coached at Eastwood as a head coach for 35 years before being an assistant under his son, Craig.
Now, Mike May is on the sidelines for the Rockets, and Cotterman, who May coached at Elmwood in the late 1990s when he was an assistant there, is in his first year leading the Eagles.
“It was a joy coaching Sam. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached,” said May. “His brother, Steve, was really good, and being able to coach them was tremendous. They’re big –good-sized; they understood the game and were tremendous football players.”
May is in his 16th season at Oak Harbor, and he’s had a good deal of success coaching the Rockets, especially in recent years. In the last five years, Oak Harbor has won a regional championship and three league titles.
Last year, the Eagles beat the Rockets, 24-20, in the second round of the playoffs. Oak Harbor had won the previous three meetings, the most recent coming in the regional semifinals in 2019. The teams stopped playing one another in the regular season after 2016, after 16 straight meetings.
“They’re one of the top programs in Northwest Ohio. They’re good, year in and year out,” said May. “They have good athletes, they’re well-coached, and their kids always play hard. Sam is doing a great job with them, it doesn’t look like they’ve missed a beat.”
The Rockets had their toughest game of the season last week, defeating Otsego, 49-21. Oak Harbor fell behind 6-0 and 14-7 but scored 42 consecutive points to take control of the game. Aside from its game with the Knights, the Rockets had done nothing but dominate this season.
Trailing 14-7, Oak Harbor scored two touchdowns to take a 21-14 lead into the half with the scores coming on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Michael Lalonde to Garry Brooks and the other on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Lalonde to Ethan Stokes.
In the third quarter, Jaqui Hayward caught a 43-yard touchdown pass, Stokes caught a 44-yard touchdown pass and Dalton Witter scored 3-yard touchdown runs, one in the fourth quarter.
Lalonde, who is in the midst of a fine season, completed 22-of-30 passes for 260 yards and four touchdowns and one interception, Stokes had seven receptions for 123 yards and two scores and Hayward caught eight passes for 72 yards and one touchdown.
“I knew going into the Otsego game that they were much better than their 2-4 record. They played a tough non-league schedule,” said May. “They had some really good athletes, they changed some things up because of some injuries, and they kept us off-balance. We had too many penalties in the first half. I was really happy with how we responded in the third quarter and we were able to put the game away.”


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