Local football teams gearing up for the stretch run

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

As the old saying goes, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
For five of the area football teams with a realistic shot at making the playoffs, the final game of the regular season could determine whether or not they make the playoffs and, if they qualify for the postseason, where they’ll be seeded.
Oak Harbor, which is 8-0 and 5-0 in the Northern Buckeye Conference and has been the most impressive of the local teams thus far, earned the third slot in the Division V, Region 18 standings with 15.48 points. Liberty Center is far ahead of the pack with 19.13 points and should earn the No. 1 seed if it defeats Wauseon in the season finale. Edison, an old Sandusky Bay Conference foe of Oak Harbor’s, is seeded second with 15.65 points, just ahead of the Rockets. Oak Harbor faces Lake in the season finale.
The Rockets beat Genoa in week eight, setting their sights on a potential league title and possibly two home games in the playoffs.
“The win against Genoa was big for us for a number of reasons — it was a rivalry game and there were implications for the potential league title, but it’s also important for the postseason,” said Oak Harbor coach Mike May. “There were a lot of (computer) points in that game, and it kept us in the top four of the region, which is where we want to be.”
The Rockets have won every game this season by at least 21 points.
“I felt really good about our consistency; our kids are really having fun playing football,” said May. “I feel like we’ve been getting better every day and have been putting together some good practices.
“This is a special time of year. We’re positioned well in the league, playing for a league title with the playoffs coming up. Playoff football is sometimes matching up with different teams, so you have to be ready to play each week because it’s win or go home. There’s a sense of urgency and excitement. It’s really fun having a ton to play for right now.”
Genoa, which is 6-2 and 4-1 in the NBC, is not far behind Oak Harbor, sitting seventh with 12.60 points. A win over Eastwood (7-1, 5-0 NBC) would all but guarantee the Comets a finish in the top eight, giving them at least one home playoff game. The Eagles, if they win the finale, would likely get at least one home playoff game. Eastwood is currently No. 9 with 10.55 points, just behind Huron, which has 11.31 points.
“Beating Eastwood could potentially be the difference in hosting one playoff game or two,” said Genoa coach Bill Fisher.
Eastwood coach Sam Cotterman said he is proud of his team, which has won five straight games after a 14-7 loss in week three to Wauseon. The Eagles have won every game since then by at least 29 points.
“We’ve come a long way from week one. We’re clicking pretty well. We’ve stayed pretty healthy – we hope that continues,” he said. “It’s a huge thing in the last couple of weeks because we don’t have a ton of depth, at least up front on the offense.”
Clay, in its first year in the Northern Lakes League, is currently 11th in Div. II, Region 6 with 8.73 points, just ahead of Start, which has 7.43 points and is coached by Northwood alum Nathan James. The Eagles, who are 3-5, are less than two points behind Brecksville-Broadview Heights (10.34) for eighth place, which is the final spot for a team to host a home playoff game.
Clay has lost five of its last six games, the most recent defeat coming at the hands of Napoleon, 35-34, in triple overtime. The Eagles have an outside shot of hosting a playoff game.
After its best season in school history, Gibsonburg is struggling to get into the postseason. The Golden Bears are 15th with 7.52 points, just head of Hardin Northern, which is 17th with 7.18 points. Gibsonburg, which is 4-4 and 3-2 in the SBC River Division, has won three straight games, all in convincing fashion — Willard (48-7), Lakota (34-3) and Woodmore (30-10). The Bears’ final game is against St. Joseph Central Catholic. Last Friday, Gibsonburg played Margaretta, so if the Bears got a win over the Polar Bears, they’ll likely get into the playoffs.
Gibsonburg has had a tough schedule — its four losses have come to teams with a combined record of 29-2.
“Right now, we’re playing pretty well. Obviously, our first five games were against tough teams. Now we’re playing teams more like us,” said Gibsonburg coach Joe Wyant. “We gained a lot of experience in those first five games, even though we lost four of them.”


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