May reaches 100 career victories at Oak Harbor

Yaneek Smith

Press Contributing Writer

For 16 years, Mike May has been the coach of the Oak Harbor Rockets.
During that time, the football program has accomplished some great things, and this year’s team is in the midst of a very good season, too. Oak Harbor is currently 9-0 and 6-0 in the Northern Buckeye Conference, good enough to win at least a share of the league title in its first year in the conference, and the Rockets are hoping to make a playoff run.
May recently won his 100th game as coach of the Rockets and has a career record of 100-64 (.610). The program has really taken off recently, and, since 2018, Oak Harbor has gone 51-13 (.797), won the third regional championship in program history, claimed four league titles (3 Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division; 1 NBC) and has a 6-3 record in the postseason, qualifying for the playoffs four times.
“I feel very fortunate to be here at Oak Harbor. The 100 wins is a reflection of the great kids and the guys I coach with,” said May. “We’ve been together for a long time now, and they’re a huge part of our success. I also appreciate the support of the community, and the administration — they stuck by me earlier when we had some rough times.”
There have been some greats May coached like Clay Schulte, Jac Alexander, Jacob Ridener, who is a junior on the team, Jake Scott, Mark Konieczny, A.J. Cecil and Austin Wiegand.
When May took over at Oak Harbor, it was a rough first season. The team, which had a very small senior class, went 2-8, but things got better in ’09 when the Rockets went 4-6 and upset perennial power Clyde, in week nine. In 2010, Oak Harbor went 7-3, nearly won an SBC title and missed the playoffs by 0.06 of a point. Since then, the Rockets have been pretty good.
The best team in May’s tenure was the ’19 team that won a regional championship. That unit, which went 13-1 and was led by the likes of Schulte and Alexander, rallied from 14 points down and defeated Orrville, the reigning state champion, in the Division V regional finals, 35-28, before falling to Kirtland, 28-14, in the state semifinals. (Kirtland, which had won the Div. VI state title in the previous season, defeated Ironton, 17-7, the next week to claim another state championship.)
Two of his May’s four children — Tyler and Katie — have graduated from Oak Harbor, his other daughter, Olivia, is a freshman, and his other son, Andrew, is in eighth grade. Tyler was a member of the ’19 team and was instrumental in its success. Mike and his wife, Kelly, are from Vanlue, which is located just outside of Findlay.
May is the first one to credit his assistants, and his right-hand man is Scott Schulte, who is the offensive coordinator. They’ve worked together for all but one season since 2000, when both were assistants at St. Marys Memorial. May took over at Oak Harbor in ’08, and Schulte joined him one year later.
Schulte, Cecil, Doug Slagle, Dave Thiel, Renel Thompson, Andy Augsburger, Eric Dusseau, Jason Overmyer and Rob Rakay are the current assistants — most of whom have been with May for many years — and there were three former coaches, all of whom have been or are currently head coaches: Lou Bosh was the former head coach at Woodmore, Tim Heffernan used to be the head coach at Danbury and Keith Recker, now in his 12th season at Van Wert, won a state championship three years ago.
“I just feel very fortunate,” said May. “I work with great people. It’s been a lot of fun.”
May has built some friendships with other coaches, notably Gary Quisno, Jerry Rutherford and Tony Legando a coaching great who was at Huron for decades.
“Since I started coaching, I’ve looked up to head coaches that stayed at one place for a long time. The foundation that Coach (Gary) Quisno laid was tremendous. He’s a friend of mine,” said May. “Jerry Rutherford at Eastwood, I coached against him when I was an assistant at Elmwood. Tony Legando, those three really stood out. Our program, for decades, was known for playing very hard, and being very respectful — we don’t play dirty. Coach Quisno and his staff started that. I like to think that when we play, our teams play the right way, and teams know that if you play Oak Harbor, it’s going to be hard.”
May, who graduated from Defiance College, where he was an offensive guard, in ’97, began his coaching career as an assistant at Elmwood. He coached the Royals for three years (1996-97, ’99) and was a graduate assistant at Ohio Northern University for a year in ’98. May then moved on to a legendary program in St. Marys Memorial, which is approximately 30 miles southwest of Lima.
Roger Frank was the coach at Elmwood when May was there before moving on to Perrysburg, and Doug Frye was the coach at Memorial when May got there.
“My first big break was coaching at Elmwood for Roger Frank. He was very organized, detail-oriented, focused on the fundamentals, and made it fun for the kids. I owe him so much,” May said. “Going to St. Marys, a tradition-rich program and being the defensive coordinator there for eight years was great. Doug was committed to the fundamentals and keeping kids accountable. He was a tough coach, but a fair coach, and his teams were always known for playing very hard and being fundamentally-sound.
“As much as I prepared for 12 years as an assistant, you’re never truly prepared for that transition to head coach.”
Coaching has become a 12-month-a-year profession in football-rich Ohio.
“After the season, there’s a little bit of a break, and then it’s back in the weight room. Then we’re looking at our entire program, strength and conditioning, and we visit other staffs in the offseason and attend clinics. We try to make everything we do better with summer workouts, a busy July and then two-a-days hit in August,” said May. “What’s kept me going is my focus has gone from chasing titles and victories to character-development, molding the young men — that’s something I didn’t know as much about when I was younger.
“Each year is a different challenge. I enjoy it. The seniors graduate and new kids come up. We’ve had so many awesome kids that have come through, so it’s hard to pick a few (to mention). The 2019 team comes up quite a bit, (but) some of our teams that went 5-5 and had to fight to get to that record with the schedule we had were (impressive). Year in and year out, the kids work hard. I got to coach my son, Tyler, that was a highlight for me, and Andrew is an eighth grader. This is a town that loves football, and there have been a lot of memorable players and teams.”


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