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Rockets hope new-look offense will lift them to new heights

Photo courtesy of Woodard Photography

After going 20-10 over a three-year span from 2010-12, the Oak Harbor Rockets regressed last season, finishing 5-5, but there are reasons to believe that Oak Harbor can bounce back this year. 

The team returns 14 starters and is led by a versatile group of 16 seniors that features a combination of strong, imposing lineman as athletes that are capable of making big plays. Head coach Mike May is hoping that the new offense he’s installed will allow his backs and receivers to get out into space and wreak havoc on the defense.

The offense has been switched from the I-formation to the Wing-T and will feature some up-tempo, no-huddle principles in an effort to harness the talent running backs like Cole Weirich and Andrew Heberling and quarterback Andre Ramsey.

“We’ve switched to the Wing-T offense with some spread element included in it,” May said. “We are no-huddle and have the capability to run a fast tempo when we want to. We must establish the run and be able to pass efficiently to keep teams honest.”

Joining Weirich and Heberling in the backfield will be Kalob Vargas with Jonathan Frederick and Mike Osbourne getting some reps. Jourdan Maguire and Rhett Petersen will split time at receiver and Kyle Pape is set to start at tight end.

Last season, Heberling burst onto the scene as sophomore and ran for over 800 yards. He helped to pace the rushing attack with Ben Genzman, who has graduated, and Weirich, who split time at quarterback with Ramsey. The team is hoping Ramsey will benefit from getting some experience last year under center, but as with any offense, it starts up front with the offensive line. 

The Rockets feature a line — Vince Szabo (6-4, 275), T.J. Lawrence (6-2, 275), Brandon Garber (6-0, 240), Ben Bergman (5-10, 185), Brandon Hymore (5-11, 190) — that has some size and is capable of establishing control at the line of scrimmage; and in a run-oriented offense, blocking is at a premium. On top of that, the fact that Oak Harbor will be running a no-huddle offense with some up-tempo tendencies means the linemen will have to be in shape, a challenge for anyone that big.

Defensively, May has always preached the importance of limiting big plays, and this year is no different. The Rockets have traditionally employed a 4-4 on defense, and this year’s group has Frederick, Lawrence, Steve Simkus, Brandon Garber, Josh Beckhusen and Tim Mossman on the line with Vargas, Maguire, Pape, Ben Petersen and Caleb Oberther as the linebackers. Weirich, Osbourne and Ethan Schwaderer round out the secondary.

“We must improve on defense by limiting big plays.”

The media and the coaches picked the Rockets to finish fourth in the SBC, right where they were last year. Clyde, Perkins and Huron are predicted to battle it out for the league title, but Oak Harbor is hoping that it can sneak into the mix. 

It won’t be easy, though. The Rockets have put together another difficult schedule, one that includes the usual list of SBC foes (minus St. Mary CC, which left the conference), and four non-conference games against Ottawa-Glandorf, Genoa, Eastwood & St. Joseph CC. 

So far, Oak Harbor has faced Lake and Bellevue in its scrimmages, two quality programs that have exposed some of the team’s weaknesses, giving the Rockets a chance to work on fixing them in the lead up to the season opener.

“We scrimmaged two very good football teams (so far),” May said. “We had trouble containing Lake QB (Jared Rettig) in the first scrimmage, (but) I felt like we improved a lot (against) Bellevue.”

May is confident that his seniors can provide the guidance necessary to steer the team in the right direction, something he’s relied heavily upon in the past. 

“Our schedule is very demanding,” he said. “It will be important for us to get off to a good start in our non-league part of the schedule. Our seniors will need to keep providing excellent leadership.”

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