OAK HARBOR – It’s been quite some time since Oak Harbor has appeared in the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs.
After dropping a week two contest at Genoa in which the Rockets trailed by just six entering the final quarter, Oak Harbor got back on track and reeled off eight straight wins to win a division title and advance to week 11.
With the exception of a week seven contest in which the Rockets yielded 28 points to Huron (a division IV playoff team), the defense held every other opponent it defeated to ten points or less.
Even in victory of Woodmore in which the Wildcats scored ten points, the starting varsity defense didn’t allow a score as Woodmore’s points came against the junior varsity defense in the fourth quarter.
Defense was the key to Oak Harbor’s 9-1 season.
The Rockets recorded four shutouts and a slipped tackle by the Edison quarterback on a rainy and damp night which resulted in a score could have been a fifth shutout.
Oak Harbor gave up just two scores in the first quarter of contests as Genoa and Port Clinton were the only teams to score.
The second quarter was just as good to Oak Harbor as Genoa and Huron were the only two teams to punch in touchdowns as Oak Harbor gave up just 28 points in the first half of games for the entire season.
Huron scored two touchdowns in the third quarter of their loss to the Rockets, but Oak Harbor’s defense stepped up and limited opponents to just 27 points during the third.
Some other eye startling numbers from the defense bear witness to its toughness.
Fostoria mustered just 115 total yards in game one on a total of 52 plays. On 47 rushes the Rockets gave up just 77 yards on the ground.
Toledo Woodward topped the 150 yard mark in total offense in the fourth week of the season while garnering just 88 yards on 33 touches.
Two weeks later at Vermilion the Rockets stuffed the Sailors as Vermilion finished with negative 14 yards of rushing and finished with just 25 total yards of offense in the contest.
Clay Schulte led the conference with 136 tackles (13 sacks) while senior Cole Roob added 71 tackles.
Sophomore Ryan Ridener was third on the team in tackles bringing down 69 defenders and had two fumble recoveries.
Hunter Wilkins, a senior, finished with 64 tackles, but his presence in the defensive backfield was even bigger as added six interceptions (two for touchdowns), and a fumble recovery.
Overall, Oak Harbor held its opponents to less than 100 rushing yards a contest (935 total rushing yards on the season) and did better on pass defense by holding opponents to just 902 passing yards.
Jordan Arnold, Brandon Elmes, Kyle Hanselman, Conner Hoy, and Andrew Oberther have also helped strengthen the Rockets’ defense throughout the season.
On the other side of the ball, Jac Alexander, Schulte, Wilkins, Nick Pfeiffer, and Tyler May carried the load of the offensive yardage production.
Alexander set a school season record for passing yards with 1,293 (16 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) while completing 62-percent of his passes.
On the ground, Alexander topped the 1,000 yard rushing mark on 179 carries.
Clay Schulte was another work-horse for Oak Harbor as the junior finished the regular season with 732 rushing yards and caught 36 passes for 413 yards and five touchdowns.
Schulte led the team in scoring with 16 total touchdowns.
Finishing with 24 catches, Wilkins added his speed and strength while finishing with 288 receiving yards and 76 rushing yards.
While missing a big portion of the season due to injury, May came back late in the season to become a huge threat on offense.
May had 18 catches for 330 yards and five touchdowns including nine huge catches in the Rockets’ win over Huron.
While May was out Pfeiffer picked up in his absence and provided another solid target for Alexander all season long as he had 13 catches for 201 yards and a score.
The offensive line that made the offense click was comprised of Parker Smith, Cole Roob, Reece Laughlin, Austin Martikan, and Cole Heffernan.
Lastly for the Rockets, the team has gladly welcomed the presence of kicker Caleb Heintz.
Heintz came on to kick for Oak Harbor beginning in week three and has accounted for three field goals and 30 extra point kicks.
Now, a new chapter begins on the Rockets’ season as Oak Harbor will host Marion Pleasant on Saturday at 7 pm.
The Spartans also boasted four shutouts this season and their offense put up 34 points or more in eight of their ten contests.
Marion Pleasant relies heavily on the running game as they are led by Patrick Blubaugh.
Blubaugh racked up 1,256 rushing yards on 117 carries and scored 19 touchdowns.
Joining Blubaugh in the backfield are Ethan Warner (QB) and Bryce Lowry (RB)
The Spartans’ defense also has a couple of players to keep watch on as Brayden Stark and Holden Atherton teamed up to record 24 sacks on the season.
In 2017 Pleasant went 10-2 overall and appeared in its 22nd playoff in school history.
The Spartans have won four state championships with their most recent in 2002.