Maize’s game-winning TD propels Eagles to 36-29 win over Comets


GENOA — Eastwood senior running back Caiden Maize scored on a four-yard run with 36 seconds remaining to propel the Eagles to a 36-29 Northern Buckeye Conference victory over Genoa at Genoa Bank Stadium Friday.

Eastwood coach Sam Cotterman, who was an assistant at Perrysburg before coming to Eastwood, knows what rivalry games are like, and says this game filled the bill.

“This is only my first year, but I’m assuming that when they put them at the end of the year this is usually a rivalry game,” Cotterman said.

“We came into a hostile environment tonight and knew it was going to be a four-quarter game. I’m just so proud of the kids that never gave up. I mean, wow.”

Genoa seemed to have the upper hand a few minutes earlier. Genoa senior quarterback Aiden Brunkhorst scored on a 22-yard run, then senior back Aiden Antry powered his way in for a two-point conversion to put the Comets up, 29-28 with 4:23 remaining.

Eastwood junior quarterback Kadyn Donnell responded by orchestrating a nine-play, 68-yard game-winning drive with Maize toting the rock eight times for 54 yards and Maize running once for 14 yards.

“That last drive, we just wanted to win, Baby — we just wanted to win and we were just ready for it,” Maize said.

“Honestly, we wanted it really bad. We didn’t give up. We knew what we wanted — we are the underdogs here and we want to prove people wrong. We put in the work day-in and night-out.

“We wanted it — it was as simple as that. Nothing else was going through our minds, just getting into that end zone, shutting them out and going home,” Maize continued.

Donnell wanted some of the credit to go to the big guys who blocked for the two Eastwood backs.

“I want to give a huge shout out to the linemen,” Donnell said. “They played their butts off tonight. Just everything through the offense is through the linemen. They are our heart and soul of the team.”

On Genoa’s Jim Firestone Field, both teams traded touchdowns and posted a combined 918 total yards of offense.

Both teams came in with just one league loss and had a mathematical chance to share an NBC title with Oak Harbor, but both knew it was unlikely that the undefeated and state-ranked Rockets would lose to Lake Friday.

The Rockets prevailed over the 2-8 Flyers, 55-0, to finish 10-0 and 7-0 in the league, while Eastwood closes the season 8-2 and 6-1 and the Comets finish third in the NBC at 7-3 and 5-2.

The Eagles and Comets were playing for much more, including a higher seed and securing a likely home game in the first round of the upcoming Division V playoffs.

The Comets outgained the Eagles in total yardage, 470-448, and Genoa had 26 first downs to Eastwood’s 23, but it was a tale of two different halves for Eastwood’s offense.

“We threw the ball early, but it was the selflessness of them and then we had to run the ball late. It was awesome,” Cotterman said.

In a turnover-filled game, rain throughout the day had led to a slippery football as the Eagles lost two fumbles, the Comets lost one, and each team’s defense came up with one interception.

However, Maize ran the ball 25 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns and Donnell ran 13 times for 99 yards and one TD. Junior Andre Lewis had a carry for 13 yards and junior Dayquan Oliver had a carry for seven yards.

Donnell also completed 11-of-19 passes for 151 yards with one TD, including four completions to Andre Lewis for 91 yards.

Oliver had three catches for 33 yards and one TD, Maize had a catch for 12 yards, junior Brock Messinger had a catch for eight yards and senior Kaiden Sanchez had a catch for seven yards.

Defensively for Eastwood, junior defensive lineman Paul Lautzenheimer had eight tackles, including six solo, Maize had seven tackles from his defensive back position and junior defensive lineman Ethan Recker had six tackles, including five solo.

Eastwood struck first on their opening drive as Donnell threw a 25-yard TD pass to Oliver, capping a nine-play, 74-yard drive that was highlighted by a 33-yard pass from Donnell to Andre Lewis.

Genoa responded on their ensuing possession, marching 67 yards on nine plays, capped by a one-yard run by Brunkhorst.

The offenses continued to dominate as Eastwood took off from their own nine-yard line after a holding penalty on the kickoff return, and they got to the Comets 18-yard line in 11 plays, but Donnell fumbled and Genoa senior defensive end Jagger Magnone recovered.

Genoa’s ensuing drive went 81 yards on 13 plays, leading to a one-yard TD run by Antry, who went over the 1,000 yard single season mark during the drive, scoring with 8:22 remaining in the half.

Genoa missed the conversion kick, however, and Eastwood went on a 13-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a three-yard TD run by senior Andrew Badenhop with 2:26 left in the half.

Senior Noah Haar’s conversion kick put the Eagles up, 14-13, at the half, even though the teams traded interceptions by Eastwood junior linebacker Kevin Lewis and Genoa junior defensive back Alex Spencer on back-to-back plays in the final minute.

Cotterman said the only halftime adjustments the Eagles made were on defense.

“We knew what was going to work,” Cotterman said. “We actually talked defensively (at halftime) and made some adjustments to try to stop that team, but offensively we only stopped ourselves in the first half (turnovers).”

Eastwood scored two quick touchdowns to start the second half on an eight-yard run by Maize and an 11-yard run by Donnell to go up, 28-13, with 4:39 remaining in the third.

To make matters worse for Genoa, the Comets drove 75 yards to the Eastwood five-yard line, but an Antry fumble was recovered by Kevin Lewis.

Genoa forced the Eagles to punt, and on the first play from scrimmage Brunkhorst hooked up with Spencer on a deep slant, who took it to the house for a 57-yard catch and run for six points.

Antry powered his way in for a two-point conversion, and the Comets were back in business, trailing 28-21 with 10:52 remaining.

Eastwood’s offense went on the move again, but after Donnell ran for 12 yards and got a first down, the ball slipped out of his hands and Genoa senior defensive lineman Caleb Gittus pounced on it at the Comets’ 23.

Genoa took advantage, marching 77 yards in nine plays with Brunkhorst scoring from 22 yards out.

In what appeared to be a winner take all situation, Antry powered in yet again for a two-point conversion, and the Comets led, 29-28, setting up Eastwood’s final game-winning drive, but they left 4:23 on the clock for Eastwood, which proved to be more than enough to work with.

“Talk about an exciting turn of events and a roller coaster of emotions, you can’t take anything away from these guys and their grit, their effort, and their no give-up mentality,” Genoa coach Bill Fisher said.

“Those are things that successful people in life have and I’m proud to say that I’m their coach when they show characteristics like that.

“I just wish that they could have been on the other side because that was probably a great feeling for the other team and it’s not the greatest feeling for us.”

Antry was the workhorse of the game, running for 259 yards on 38 carries, Brunkhorst ran for 35 yards on eight carries, Spencer ran for 23 yards on five carries, and Magnone had two carries for 12 yards.

Brunkhorst completed 8-of-15 passes for 138 yards, including four to Spencer for 66 yards, two to Antry for 32 yards, two to Magnone for 28 yards and one to Denver Stewart for 12 yards.

Stewart, a senior receiver and linebacker, had 11 tackles and a fumble recovery, sophomore defensive back Logan Routson and junior linebacker Dom Lindenberger had nine tackles each and senior defensive lineman Carson Graalman had seven tackles for the Genoa defense.

Both teams will begin preparing for a playoff game next Friday and there is the slight possibility the two teams could meet again at some point.

“We just have to try to get after it Monday,” Maize said. “Rest this weekend, prepare our minds Monday and then get back after it.”

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