PEMBERVILLE — Despite facing a bigger defensive line, Eastwood’s offensive line got the push as nine different backs ran for 329 yards during a 49-7 first round Division V playoff rout over Fredericktown at Jerry Rutherford Stadium Friday.
Eastwood stays unbeaten at 11-0 while Fredericktown sees its season end at 6-5.
Eastwood senior running back Bryce DeFalco led the Eagles, running for 76 yards on nine carries and scoring on touchdown runs of 6, 1, 33 and 7 yards.
“We’ve got a lot of good guys who can run the ball when it is in their hands,” DeFalco said. “Honestly, I think a lot more guys on our team are capable of running the ball, but it all starts with the guys up front — ‘Jordy,’ Anthony, Joey, Jaleel, Shayne and Sanchez — all those guys.”
To interpret, “Jordy” is 5-foot-9, 190-pound Jordan Pickerel, and following DeFalco’s line of thinking you include 5-8, 178-pound Anthony Molina, 5-9, 237-pouond Joey Grezegorczyk, 6-0, 200-pound Jaleel Rayford, 6-0, 204-pound Shayne O’Brien, and 5-10, 202-pound Kaiden Sanchez.
All are senior linemen except Sanchez, a junior tight end, but there are no 300-pound linemen here, not even 250 pounds. Fredericktown’s front four linemen weigh in at 285, 250, 215 and 230 pounds — proving there is more to blocking than size.
“It comes down to whoever wants it more, honestly, and just the drive and the passion that we all have for each other — just playing one more week for the guy next to you, and that’s why we come in day and day out, just to get better still,” DeFalco said.
“They (linemen) work their butts off day in and day out for us, and we do it in return,” DeFalco added.
Pickerel said it’s about technique, effort and strength, and he gave credit to the running backs and the non-starters who act as the scout team throughout the week.
“They definitely had us outsized, but we just come in with a charcoal of fire,” Pickerel said. “Our scout team guys on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday — they come hard, right at us and we just come right out and play our hardest.
“I don’t care who runs the ball. We’ll block for anybody. Our backs do a great job, obviously — (seniors) Case Boos, Bryce DeFalco, Bryce Hesselbart and Isaac Reynolds — they all do a great job. We all try and do our blocks and they make guys miss and that helps us out a lot.”
Eastwood coach Craig Rutherford thought Fredericktown’s size might be a problem. The Freddies’ backs weighed in about the same as Eastwood’s linemen.
“We knew going in that would be the biggest team we had played,” Rutherford said. “Up front, especially right away we got a great push and our backs blocked really hard for each other, so we were able to bust off big plays early.”
Eastwood senior quarterback Case Boos ran for 68 yards on seven carries, sophomore Andre Lewis had 67 yards on six carries and junior Caiden Maize ran for 50 yards on six carries. Boos scored on TD runs of 15, 1 and 11 yards.
In addition, Reynolds had 29 yards on four carries, sophomore Kevin Lewis had 16 yards on three carries, senior Aaron Thompson had eight yards on three carries, sophomore Logan Perry had eight yards on two carries and Hesselbart ran the ball once for seven yards.
Maize seemingly scored on an 18-yard run, capping a 10-play, 67-yard fourth quarter drive led by Maize, Thompson, and Perry, but as he reached for the end zone, he fumbled and it was recovered by Fredericktown freshman Jordan Moore — or the Eagles would have put up 50 points-plus.
In addition, Boos completed 3-of-4 passes for 80 yards, including one to sophomore Dayquan Oliver for 50 yards, one to senior Jackson Bauer for 16 yards and one to Lewis for 14 yards.
It was a similar situation on the other side of the ball, but Eastwood held Fredericktown to one score and 240 yards total offense, while Eastwood’s offense accumulated 409 yards.
“Once our defensive line settled in and started to adjust to some of the things that they were starting to hit us with, I thought the defense played really well and our coaches did a great job adjusting as the game went on,” Rutherford said.
The Eastwood defense forced turnovers on Fredericktown’s first two possessions of the second half, both leading to Eastwood TDs.
The first fumble was forced by Rayford and recovered by Pickerel, and the second was forced by Lewis, who put his helmet on the ball of Fredericktown 6-5, 200-pound senior receiver Kaid Carpenter, forcing him to cough it up. Maize recovered that fumble.
Eastwood junior defensive back Caleb Souder also hit a receiver as he went to catch the ball, forcing the ball to go airborne, where it was intercepted by junior linebacker Andrew Badenhop.
Looking at the final stats, you would never know who Eastwood’s starters or non-starters were. That’s a good thing, says Rutherford.
“I think that’s motivating for guys. I mean, they work really hard for us in practice,” Rutherford said. “I think the work that our scout teams do is, they get after it, and it’s fun to give them a reward at the end of the week, whether it’s the first round of the playoffs or a few rounds in.
“High school playoffs are big in Ohio, and it is important for them to be on the field under the lights, and at least get them a little bit of experience,” Rutherford said. “That’s part of the deal with the playoffs — the longer you go the more practices you get in and hopefully you are able to build more and more depth.”
Fredericktown got its only score on a 53-yard run by senior running back Teegan Ruhl, tying the game at 7-7 with 6:27 remaining in the first quarter, but the Freddies never found the end zone again.
Ruhl ran for 74 yards on eight carries, senior Mason Hoeflich ran for 51 yards on 14 carries, and senior Billy Woodring ran for 50 yards on six carries.
Fredericktown senior quarterback Ben Mast completed 9-of-15 passes for 78 yards, including three to senior Xavier Mullins for 33 yards, three to Carpenter for 23 yards, and one to Ruhl for 13 yards.
Next Friday, Oak Harbor (10-1) will come to Eastwood’s Freedom Field at Jerry Rutherford Stadium for a regional quarterfinal game at 7 p.m.
The Rockets defeated Genoa (6-5), 47-36, Friday. Genoa was the only team to defeat the Rockets, 28-25, during the regular season.
Otherwise, Oak Harbor would be 11-0, but Pickerel says the Eagles will be prepared.
“Obviously, the biggest thing is to just stay healthy and then keep going hard in practice, and keeping the younger guys in it because they help us a lot,” Pickerel said.