PEMBERVILLE – Eastwood lived up to its ranking Friday night as the state’s top ranked football team dispatched Swanton 48-0 in the Division V regional quarterfinal. The Eagles had big plays in all three phases of the game with a punishing offense, long returns and a punt block on special teams, and two turnovers on defense.
“Overall, we just got beat in every aspect of the game,” said Swanton coach Randy Kerns. “Credit to Eastwood, they are an outstanding team. They’re #1 in D-V in Ohio for a reason.”
Swanton started the game with the ball deep in their own territory following a personal foul. They did pick up a first down with a catch from Anthony Howard and run from Michael Lawniczak.
However, they were forced to punt from their own 19-yard line. A long return by Alex Ross set up the Eagles at the five-yard line.
It took two Jaden Rayford runs to get the ball in the end zone and Eastwood led 7-0 with 8:26 left in the opening quarter.
Swanton picked up another first down on the ensuing possession, driving down to their own 42 before being forced to punt.
The Bulldog defense stuffed Rayford and forced an Eagle punt. But, Swanton did nothing on their next possession and punted it back to Eastwood.
The Eagles, who had great field position all night, started at their own 48-yard line and began their most time-consuming drive of the night. The opening quarter ended with the Bulldogs down 7-0 and Eastwood driving.
Rayford scored from 6 yards out to give Eastwood a 14-0 lead with 9:35 to play until halftime.
Big plays allowed the Eagles to put the game out of reach by halftime.
Jake Pickerel hit Cooper Comes for a 69-yard touchdown pass. Then with the ball near midfield, Swanton fumbled the ball back to Eastwood. Rayford scored again and it was 28-0 Eagles with time winding down in the first half.
Eastwood then blocked a Swanton punt and Pickerel quickly turned the excellent field position into a 13-yard touchdown pass to Brody Patterson. Eastwood led 35-0 at halftime and the second half had a running clock.
The second half began with another big play as Comes returned the kickoff to the house for a 42-0 advantage.
Swanton did manage to drive down to the Eastwood 25 before an interception helped to ensure the shutout.
Eastwood will face Otsego on Friday in the regional semifinal. They topped Otsego 39-0 in the regular season.
Overall, Eastwood outgained Swanton offensively 272-64 yards. Eastwood had 191 yards rushing and 81 passing while the Bulldogs had 42 yards passing and 22 rushing.
“Eastwood defensively was much too physical for us,” Kerns said. “They were bigger and stronger than us, and their aggression and toughness to the football was incredible. They’re easily the best defense we played all season.”
Swanton was 0 of 9 on third down conversions. The Bulldogs had two turnovers and Eastwood 0.
Rayford led the Eagles in rushing with 95 yards on 20 carries. Damron added 56 yards on eight carries.
Gage Pachlhofer led Swanton with 19 yards on five carries. Lawniczak was held to 15 yards on 11 carries.
“Overall, what happened Friday should not dampen what our kids did during the season. No one gave us much respect or much of a chance this year,” said Kerns. “We were picked to finish sixth in the NWOAL, and to finish second and make the playoffs is truly a testament to our kids. We had incredible overtime victories versus the other playoff qualifiers in the league, including the league champion, Archbold. We had a lot of adversity that people don’t even realize (behind the scenes), and for our kids to believe in themselves and the team and do what they did, I could not be prouder.”
With the loss, Swanton’s season comes to a close with a 7-4 record that included wins over playoff teams Wauseon and Archbold. In his first season, Kerns became just the third coach to lead the Bulldogs to the playoffs.
“I’m looking forward to this off-season. I didn’t get to Swanton until June, so I’m looking forward to shaping this team and addressing the aspects we need to address,” said Kerns. “Our strength and explosiveness must improve, and it will. I’m looking forward to the progression of our younger kids this winter and spring.”
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