TONTOGANY — After Friday’s 48-19 loss to visiting Genoa, Otsego’s chances of winning a Northern Buckeye Conference championship are hanging by a thread.
Some might say that thread has already been severed.
The Comets and Knights both came into the contest with 2-0 league records, with Otsego only losing non-league games to three teams with a combined record of 12-5.
Genoa had a non-league win over a good Huron team (4-2) and the Comets’ only loss came to Northwest Ohio Athletic League contender Archbold (4-1) in the season opener.
However, Genoa controlled the line of scrimmage, racking up 509 total yards and the Comets steamrolled to a 34-6 halftime lead. Parts of the second half saw a running clock.
“Our team has got a long way to go,” Otsego coach Josh Lindke said. “We’re decimated by injuries right now, which doesn’t help. We’ve got six starters out and in small school football it’s tough to survive that.
“We got to do what we can, get back to the drawing board and figure out how to scratch and claw and get some wins the rest of the way.”
Each team had a couple second half touchdowns, but Genoa, on a five-game win streak improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the NBC and seemingly on a collision course with Oak Harbor (6-0, 3-0) and Eastwood (5-1, 3-0).
“Our defense is flying around on 19 cylinders right now and we’re coming in hard,” said Genoa coach Bill Fisher.
“The leadership of our 13 seniors is second to none right now and we’re rolling. We want to ride this wave as long as we can and keep this momentum going and hope for the best along the way.”
Otsego fell to 2-4 and 2-1. Lindke had said before the season began that despite returning nearly all of his skilled players, the Knights were inexperienced in the trenches, and that became evident against Genoa.
“They absolutely did. I don’t have an answer for it,” Lindke said. “They have a nice sized line and we’re undersized at a lot of positiions.
“That is why technique and playing fundamentally sound and playing hard is ultimately real important. We’ve got to do some soul searching as a group to see how we are going to deal with that.”
After Genoa’s defense forced Otsego to a three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, the Comets wasted no time on offense.
On the second play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Aiden Brunkhorst found senior receiver Denver Stewart wide open in the flats, and Stewart had just one man to beat, running untouched 72 yards for the game’s first TD.
Otsego matched Genoa’s score with a 14-play, 75-yard drive, highlighted by a junior running back Jordyn Barnett’s back-to-back runs of 12 and nine yards, breaking a tackle in the first carry to gain a first down.
Otsego senior quarterback Devin Farley scored on a power run up the middle from three yards out, but a bad snap on the conversion kick left the Knights empty afterwards and they still trailed 7-6 with 3:55 remaining in the first.
Genoa then rattled off four touchdowns unanswered to begin pulling away. Brunkhorst threw a nine-yard TD pass to Stewart, senior back Aidan Antry scored on TD runs of 49 and two yards, and Brunkhorst’s third TD pass to Stewart covered 18 yards.
Otsego’s two second half scores were on a 68-yard pass from Farley to senior receiver Jack Simpson and junior quarterback Kaidyn Hutton threw a 44-yard TD pass to senior receiver Kenton Wallace.
Genoa’s two second half scores came on touchdown runs by junior Alex Spencer of 37 and 15 yards.
Brunkhorst not only had the luxury of wide open receivers, but he and his receivers were making plays to get extra yards when they needed to.
“He’s definitely a special player and we’re glad he’s wearing maroon and gray, that’s for sure,” coach Fisher said.
Brunkhorst completed 9-of-10 passes for 282 yards, including four to Stewart for 118 yards, two to Spencer for 72 yards, two to Antry for 46 yards, and one to freshman Jaxon Magnone for 44 yards.
Eight Genoa backs accounted for 227 yards on the ground, including 97 yards on 13 carries by Antry. Spencer had 74 yards on six carries, Brunkhorst had 28 yards on five carries, freshman back Alex Materni had 20 yards on four carries, and senior Jagger Magnone had nine yards on three carries.
The Comets had 19 first downs to the Knights’ 16, but Otsego did rack up 342 total yards on offense. The game did not see a single turnover by either team.
Farley completed 19-of-26 passes for 217 yards, but he was sacked three times. Hutton completed 3-of-3 passes for 70 yards.
Simpson caught eight passes for 136 yards, Wallace caught three passes for 65 yards, senior receiver Cohen Feehan had three catches for 39 yards, senior receiver Owen Atkinson had three catches for 31 yards, and Barnett, Hutton, and junior Jake Limes combined for four catches totaling 19 yards.
Stewart led the Genoa defense with eight tackles, including four solo and one-half of a sack. For Otsego, Feehan, from his defensive back position, had 10 tackles, including eight unassisted.