BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
After winning a game by forfeit when Elyria Catholic had a Covid-19 outbreak, Oak Harbor had to forfeit its game against Eastwood in the third round of the Division V, Region 18 playoffs for the same reason, ending the season with a 5-4 record.
“After we found out there was another positive case, we went through our protocols and met with the Ottawa County Health Department,” said Oak Harbor Athletic Director Dan Hoover. “The health department decided they needed to quarantine 18 of our sophomores. We felt that for the safety of our players and the players from Eastwood that it was best to cancel the game.
“We really were heartbroken to cancel the football game because of all the seniors and the hard work the team and our coaches have put in, but felt that it was the right thing to do.”
Oak Harbor coach Mike May echoed those sentiments.
“We had some positive cases on our team and then, last Tuesday, there were a number of guys that had to go into quarantine,” he said. “I think the right decision was made to try and keep everybody safe — our players and coaches, Eastwood, everyone involved with the game. I was 100% in support of the decision. I was obviously disappointed by it, but it had to be done.”
The Rockets’ last game was a 69-17 victory over Doylestown Chippewa in the first round, a game that saw them rush for 455 yards.
Oak Harbor’s record wasn’t terribly impressive, but the Rockets hung in against some of the area’s top teams. Bellevue, which is 8-0, seeded No. 1 in Div. IV, Region 14 and still alive in the playoffs, trailed Oak Harbor, 7-6, until scoring a touchdown with a little over three minutes remaining in the game. The Rockets lost, 35-21, to Huron, a defeat that saw Oak Harbor rally from a 21-point deficit to make the game competitive. And there was the 22-16 loss to Edison, a game where the Rockets led or were tied for 47 of the game’s 48 minutes.
It was a good season for three seniors, quarterback Ashton Schroeder and running backs Ryan Ridener and Collin Fauver. They filled the voids left by the graduation of Jac Alexander and Clay Schulte.
May credited his seniors for their leadership and noted how they dealt with the difficult circumstances.
“No. 1 was the leadership of our seniors. I thought they did a great job. The summer was different, we didn’t have two-a-days, just one longer practice in August,” he said. “Once we got into the season, we had somewhat of an inexperienced team. We had a lot of guys coming into the season that hadn’t played much under the Friday night lights. We just had to jump right into it.
“Bellevue is still playing, they’re undefeated, and we took them right down to the wire. In some of the other games, against Edison, we pretty much dominated the first half, but weren’t able to close it out. Huron was undefeated, and we were right there with them until the end.”
Oak Harbor lost Schroeder to a broken arm in the loss to the Chargers, but the team played well in his absence.
“Our kids battled. I’m proud of how they handled adversity after the loss to Edison and Huron back to back,” said May. “Our kids just kept playing hard and stuck together and I’m very proud of them. We lost our starting quarterback and still gave 100%.”
In the 14-7 win over Port Clinton, Ridener was the best player on the field and Fauver caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ridener with 37 seconds remaining to give the Rockets the victory. Ridener carried the ball 26 times for 167 yards and a touchdown.
May credited his offensive line — Blake DeWitz, Egan Bolander, Ryan Snow, Dylan Schiets and Aiden Hall — for their efforts this season.
“They really gelled together and played well,” May said. “We had four new starters on the line. Some of them played both ways.”
The last three seasons have been very successful for Oak Harbor. The Rockets won just their third regional championship in program history, claimed two league titles and went 28-7, including 6-3 in the playoffs.
“I think there’s a lot of momentum in the program. Our numbers are up at every level of our program. Kids are excited about Rocket football,” said May. “If we had the opportunity, we could’ve made a run in the playoffs.
“I was impressed with the adjustments our team made after we lost our quarterback. The Port Clinton game, we pulled out a tough game, and we scored almost 70 points in the playoff game. I can’t say enough about our seniors. I know the upperclassmen are excited about the upcoming year.”