“Our kids are believing.”
That’s the word from Bay High football coach Ron Rutt as the Rockets are off to their best start in years at 3-0.
Bay beat Fairview last Friday night, 34-17, to make it three straight this season. But it is the big win over Westlake in the last-ever Battle for the Little Brown Jug two weeks ago that has fans talking about the Rockets.
“Getting off to a 3-0 start after being 1-9 last year, you’re feeling pretty good,” said Rutt on Monday. The team opens West Shore Conference play at Elyria Catholic this Friday night.
“Our kids are believing a lot. There is a lot of belief in what we are doing as a team. Our kids have come together.”
Rutt said the win over Westlake in a lightning-delayed game was literally a spark for the program.
“The kids want to help one another as a team and also as individuals. A lot of that comes from our four captains and our seniors. We have 14 seniors. Our captains are Dan Hoke, Danny Heidelhoff, Matt Beniard and junior Nick Best.”
Bay captured the Little Brown Jug with a last-second touchdown to stun the Westlake Demons, 35-33, on a Saturday morning – Sept. 6 – that will live forever in Bay football annals. The game was postponed from the night before when lightning stopped action midway through the third quarter with Westlake ahead, 20-9.
Bay brought some lightning of its own when play resumed at 10 a.m. the next day. The Rockets climbed back into the contest and trailed by a 33-29 count late in the fourth quarter after missing an extra point that would have put them within a field goal of tying the contest. Westlake failed to run out the clock, and Bay was left with one more chance to strike.
Bay went big on its final possession with just 1:12 left on the clock. Three pass completions were capped when quarterback John Koz went vertical with a hail mary pass to 6-5 Rex Sunahara for a 35 yard score as time expired. Sunahara ripped the ball away from Westlake’s defenders with a catch that will become legend for the Rocket program.
It was Bay’s first win over the Demons since 2002.
Bay now keeps The Little Brown Jug forever as this year’s game is the last in this long-standing rivalry. Conference realignments beginning next season will negate the chance for these neighborhood rivals to meet.
New Conferences for Area High Schools
Next year, Bay will move to the newly formed Great Lakes League. Schools will include Bay, Rocky River, Parma, Normandy, Valley Forge, Holy Name and Elyria Catholic. The Southwestern Conference is expanding to 10 teams. The SWC will include Amherst Steele, Avon, Avon Lake, Berea-Midpark, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Lakewood, Midview, North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls and Westlake.
The Kaiser Connection
There is a lot of history at work as the Ron Rutt era unfolds at Bay. Rutt is a 2000 Bay High grad who played under coach Tom Kasier.
“He’s been huge for me from right when I got hired,” reports Rutt.
“I went over to his house for a week or two and we would sit down at his dining room table for a couple hours. We had a stack of papers about a foot tall. He’s been a great influence not only as my coach, but by being a coach now. He comes back a couple days a week, and he really fires the team up. I think the Westlake game really meant a lot to him.”
The Koz Connection
Bay’s star quarterback, John Koz, has roots in local grid history. His dad, John H. Koz, starred for Lakewood High in the ‘90s and was a Div. III All-American at Baldwin Wallace, where he started at quarterback for four years.
Bay now gets ready to open West Shore Conference play at Elyria Catholic. “Elyria Catholic has a number of talented players,” said Rutt. “They might have the best running back in the conference in Justin Rankin. I know everyone talks about Demario McCall of North Ridgeville, but Rankin is also a tremendous back with a different running style.”
Bay faces a challenging schedule the last half of the season. The final three games are against SWC Div. I opponent North Olmsted, WSC contender Rocky River with star quarterback Matt Lowry and then four-time WSC champ Avon in the finale.
That last game just might be a championship game for Bay. “Everyone on the remainder of our schedule is either 3-0 or 2-1 right now,” said Rutt. “But we’ll take it.”
In the Hunt
Bay is ranked 7th in the state in football by the Associate Press in its first poll of the season. The Rockets are a Div. IV School. In Div. I, St. Edward is second behind Cincinnati Moeller. In Div. II, Avon is in 6th place state-wide.