Gottfried, Eastwood ready for playoff showdown with Hartley (11-10-11)
Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor
Thursday, 10 November 2011 10:27
LUCKEY - Austin Gottfried's first two seasons as a member of Eastwood's football team were spent on the sidelines, cheering on his friends and teammates.
|Eastwood's Austin Gottfried (34) celebrates. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
He didn't play during his sophomore and junior seasons, the result of two surgeries to repair a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament in his right knee.
But Gottfried is healthy now as a senior and he's started every game at tight end.
The Eagles, 11-0 overall and ranked fourth in the state, face second-ranked and defending state champion Columbus Bishop Hartley (10-0) in a Division IV, Region 14 semifinal Saturday at Ashland Community Stadium.
"This year has been unbelievable," Gottfried said. "To have a year like this is just a great feeling, playing every Friday night, starting every game, being undefeated and everything else along with it."
Gottfried injured the ACL in separate accidents during baseball games his sophomore and junior seasons. He was sidelined for six months each time, forcing him to miss his first two football seasons.
But he was ready for the Eagles' season-opener in August this fall, a 37-34 over Patrick Henry. Eastwood also went on to win the Northern Buckeye Conference championship.
"I knew I was going to play again," Gottfried said. "I just had to do the rehab. The last two years have been depressing at times. I put a lot of hard work into the rehab, three days a week for the first month, twice a week for the second month. It eventually paid off. It felt great to be on the field with the guys again."
Gottfried's blocking has been one of the reasons the Eagles are averaging 51.8 points and 455.2 yards per game. He's also an honor roll student, posting a 4.0 grade-point average during the fall semester.
"You have to be happy for him after what he's dealt with wanting to play football," Eagle coach Jerry Rutherford said. "He's just a great kid."
The 5-foot-11, 194-pounder's work on the offensive line has been critical for the Eagles, who are a run-oriented team out of the Wing-T formation.
One of their favorite plays is the sweep, which is run to Gottfried's side of the field. The Eagles are averaging 384.1 yards per game rushing, including 9.0 yards per carry.
"We weren't sure what he was going to be able to do because of the injuries and because he hadn't played," Rutherford said. "When he got the opportunity to be our tight end, he's taken the position and has done a tremendous job."
The Eagles' next challenge is Hartley, which has out-scored its opponents by a 407-159 margin. The Hawks are in the playoffs for the third straight season and 10th time overall.
Eastwood's defense has been good all season, allowing just 15.1 ppg. The Eagles are a plus-29 in turnover margin.
Senior linebacker Kris Hayward leads the team with 111 tackles.
"We're taking them like any other team, preparing the same way as we have every other week," Gottfried said. "We have to keep executing like we have been and continue to work our butts off."
Hartley also runs the Wing-T and uses a 3-3 stack defense, the alignment used by Eastwood last season.
The Hawks totaled 394 yards in their 42-14 first-round win over North Union. Junior running back back JaWaun Woodley (5-11, 220) rushed for five touchdowns and 294 yards.
SDLqWe're going to do what we do, and it just comes down to executing our plays offensively and playing solid defense," Rutherford said. "You're not going to change what you're doing at this point in the season because the kids believe in what we're doing and because it's been working for us.
"They have good size and speed, and they have good athletes. It just comes down to who plays the best because you're going to be playing a good team at this point in the season."
Although the Eagles have played consistently well on offense and defense, their play has been even more impressive because the team never takes a play off.
Eastwood is attempting to advance to the regional finals for the second time in the last five seasons. The Eagles were 11-2 in 2007.
"Our kids play hard," Rutherford said. "You don't have to be a great athlete to give 100 percent and our kids do that every play."
WHAT: Division IV, Regional 14 semifinal.
• WHERE: Ashland Community Stadium.
• WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
• PAIRINGS: Second-seeded and fourth-ranked Eastwood (11-0) plays third-seeded, second-ranked and defending state champion Columbus Bishop Hartley (10-0).
• TICKETS: All tickets at the gate are $9. Presale tickets at Eastwood are $7. Eastwood is selling tickets this afternoon until 3:30, tonight from 6-8 and Friday from 7:15 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Eastwood receives a portion of the presale tickets.
• NEXT: The Eastwood-Hartley winner plays top-seeded and top-ranked Kenton (11-0) or fourth-seeded and seventh-ranked Genoa (10-1) in a regional final Nov. 19. The regional finals are played at neutral sites, with the sites being announced Sunday afternoon.
Last Updated on Thursday, 10 November 2011 10:51