Father, son earn accolades for their efforts

Yaneek Smith

Press Contributing Writer

Eighteen years ago, Brian Vorst took over as the coach of the Rossford Bulldogs, who were entrenched in the Northern Lakes League as the conference’s smallest school, with the likes of Perrysburg and Anthony Wayne dwarfing them.
Now, Rossford fits nicely in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
“When I first got here, we were the smallest school in the NLL. The biggest thing that has changed is the expectation. We were looking at being .500 in the conference and calling that a win,” said Vorst. “Now the expectation is to win the conference. That has changed; the confidence has changed. The kids believed that we could go out there and fight and win a championship. That didn’t happen in the NLL.”
The Bulldogs won the league this year, going 21-5 while winning all 14 of their games in the NBC. (It’s Rossford’s fifth league title since the NBC was formed in 2011.) The Bulldogs also claimed a Division II district championship, defeating Central Catholic, 48-34.
The top two players this past season were Vorst’s son, Derek, who is 6-10 and is headed to continue his basketball career at Indiana State University, and Jake Morrison, an Oregon resident.
“I thought it was a great season. It was fun because we had so many seniors and they’d been together for so long. It was great to have the success we had and watch it develop over the years,” said Brian Vorst. “These kids spent a lot of time working together to get to where they did. It’s fun to watch that come to fruition.
“I was really glad that these guys had the chance to play in a regional game and experience that. It took a lot to get to that point. Only one team is going to win the state championship. I was proud of what our guys did.”
Vorst talked about the win over the Irish, who were bothered by Derek Vorst’s height throughout the game.
“That was a big win for us – they knocked us out two years ago,” Brian Vorst said. “I thought our coaching staff did a great job preparing our guys for that game. We had 100% buy-in, belief and they never wavered that we were going to win. They played exactly the way we needed to play for us to win.”
Vorst, who lives in Luckey, resigned after the season, going 223-187 in 18 seasons, winning three sectional titles and one district championship.
For his efforts, Brian Vorst was named the Alan Miller Jewelers’ All-Press Coach of the Year. He received five votes, Cardinal Stritch coach Sedron Harris got four votes and Genoa coach Jon Sandwich received one vote.
Derek Vorst, who averaged 12.9 points and 10.1 rebounds, was named the Player of the Year, edging out Cardinal Stritch’s Christian Burton (16.3 pts, 6.4 asts, 3.0 rebs) by a 7-3 vote.
“I thought Derek had a really nice season, statistically. His points were down from his junior year, but all of his other stats were up,” said Brian Vorst. “Even though his scoring wasn’t high, we had so many guys that could do things and we could share the ball. I was really proud of the season he had.”
Burton and Derek Vorst both earned first-team honors and were the only unanimous selections. The other first-team selections were Eastwood’s Case Boos (17.6 pts, 3.6 asts, 2.9 rebs), Genoa’s Walter Plantz (13.5 pts, 7.3 rebs) and Oak Harbor’s Ethan Stokes (17.7 pts, 6.0 rebs).
Morrison was named to the second team, as were Stritch teammates Breon Hicks and Kam Hughes as well as Northwood’s Kaden Cluckey and Genoa’s Jon Huston.
The third-team selections were Brady Weaver (Eastwood), Skyler Ju (Genoa), Brady Thatcher (Woodmore), Lucas Jeremy (Clay) and Taylor Jones (Waite).
The Cardinals had the best season of any of the area schools, going 22-4 and winning a district championship. One of the highlights of the season was beating the No. 2 team in Div. III, Emmanuel Christian, 72-70. Stritch’s season ended in the regional semifinals to the No. 1 team in the state, Ottawa-Glandorf, 62-43. (The Titans would advance to the state championship game.)
“It was a good season. We obviously fell short of our goal. It was memorable for the community and the team; that’s something you’re very proud of. We worked very hard,” said Harris, who credited the work of his assistants, Brandon Richardson and Jason Hosinski. “After being disappointed last year in the district finals, to be able to move past that and go farther than any other team in our conference speaks volumes.”
Harris spoke highly of his five seniors — Burton, Hughes, Hicks, Owen Carter and Collin Fitzgerald.
“They’re tremendous young men, on and off the court. Kam is a dual-sport athlete, a force; his stats weren’t where he wanted to be because he got double-teamed a lot,” said Harris. “Chris stepped up as a point guard; he averaged 6.5 assists and caused havoc. Carter is a silent assassin; he impacts the game, never complains, does it right. Breon Hicks is flying high with his shot blocking. He was able to hone in on the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. Colin Fitzgerald didn’t get a lot of minutes, but always knew what was going on – kind of like a third or fourth coach.
“My seniors were phenomenal,” he said.
Genoa, which went 16-8, had an accomplished group of seniors, too and Jon Sandwisch had high praise for them.
“Griffin Meyer won our Dave Hitchen Award, which is given to a coach on the floor. He was a true point guard, and he knew what we wanted. He’s going to play soccer at Defiance College, and I’m really excited for him. Skylar Ju is a super creative person — he can play the piano, the guitar, and has a wild personality that is a lot of fun. I believe he’s going to UT.
“Mason Drummond was a great leader who came off the bench. Sometimes for seniors, that’s a hard thing. He’s playing college football at Trine University in Indiana. I’m excited about that. Robert Messenger was called ‘the garbage man’ – he would do all the dirty work for us. For a senior to embrace it, it was a blessing. He’s going to play football at Heidelberg. Andrew Sziepela put the team before himself and he accepted a difficult role. He’s going to play football at Heidelberg University,” Sandwisch said.
And Plantz, who is just a freshman, has better days ahead of him.
“It’s going to be up to him. He’s one of those guys that puts in countless amounts of hours in the gym, he’s always working his tail off,” said Sandwisch. “The sky’s the limit, it’s just going to be how hard he pushes himself. He plays AAU, the Nike Circuit, the highest you can get. I’m really excited about him and him starting to become a leader and bringing other guys into the gym.”
Another athlete that stands out is Ethan Stokes, who is a 6-4 Oak Harbor sophomore. He can dunk and plays with incredible athleticism. He’s already one of the area’s best athletes and has the attention of a number of colleges.
“He had to learn this year what it was like to be a leader. It’s hard to be the leading scorer and leading rebounder,” said Oak Harbor coach Eric Sweet. “For a sophomore, that’s tremendous. If we would’ve had more victories, he would have had more adulation. His size, length and quickness set him apart. He’s starting to get on the radar of colleges.”


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