Rockets hope for spot in playoffs
By Yaneek Smith (byline)
Sports Editor (bycredit)
Since taking over for former head coach Gary Quisno, Mike May has helped to revive a program that fallen on hard times. During May's tenure, the Rockets have gone from being a mediocre team to one that is consistently competing for league titles and playoff berths.
In fact, the Rockets have gone a combined 13-7 in each of the last two seasons and have been in the hunt for both the Sandusky Bay Conference crown and a playoff spot.
However, the Rockets lose their share of production on both sides of the ball, but do return 10 starters, including five on offense and five on defense.
Offensively, Oak Harbor employs a standard two-back, two-receiver system that focuses on running the football. Running back Mark Konieczny, who rushed for over 1300 yards in 2011, is expected to have another stellar season. In fact, the season Konieczny has could go a long way in determining the success of the offense. May feels that the offensive line is improved from last year and, as a result, expects big things from Konieczny.
Senior Austin Wiegand, who played wide receiver last season, replaces Brian Mallernee. Like Mallernee, Wiegand is a dual threat who can throw the ball downfield and make plays with his legs.
“We've been real pleased with (Austin) throwing the ball and I think that he will be good (this season),” May said.
A.J. Cecil returns at wide receiver and helps to provide a downfield threat. Currently, seniors Chris Tabbert and Jamie Balboa and sophomore Cole Wierich are competing for the second spot at receiver.
The offensive line was effective last year, but May expects them to be slightly improved this time around. Zane Troknya, a former tight end, takes over at center and is flanked by guards Nate Segaard and Mitch Hayslett with Dalton Reau filling in at right tackle. Vince Szabo and Aaron Hopkins are currently battling it out for the all-important left tackle position.
“We feel like we'll be improved up front from last year,” May said. “We are looking for steady improvement out of Mark and some big plays.”
Defensively, the Rockets will have to replace several key players, among them Brian and Joey Mallernee, Allen Boss, Ryan Helle and Adam Losie, all of whom were lost to graduation.
The defensive line features the likes of Reau, Hayslett, T.J. Lawrence and Troknya while the linebacking core is comprised of returning starter Kaleb Maguire, Ben Genzman, Jared Chambers and Coby Brough. The secondary, meanwhile, is made up of a rotation of Weigand, Cecil, Wierich and Balboa. Should the defense perform well like it has in the past two seasons, there's no reason to believe that Oak Harbor can't compete for the SBC crown.