By Ryan Kaczmarski
On Friday night, the Bay High School football team will try to do something the Rockets have not been able to do in recent memory – win the week No. 2 game at Westlake High School and bring back the coveted “Little Brown Jug” to Bay Village.
The Demons have won the rivalry game – between former Southwestern Conference foes – for more than a decade straight, and Bay head coach Ryan Gorius thinks that this year’s squad could be the one to change the school’s fortunes.
“I believe it’s a mental issue that we have with our program,” Gorius said. “It’s a belief within ourselves that we can win the game that we were lacking.
“We have good players,” he continued. “We have kids that work hard and do everything that I ask them to do. I think a lot of it has to do with what’s between the ears. We need to be able to overcome adversity, and also hang onto leads when we have them late in the game.”
Six of the seven losses the Rockets suffered last season came at an average of fewer than seven points.
“Against Westlake (last year), they got us 13-3, and it was a playoff team and they were very good and well-coached,” Goruis said.
Bay will have to change its luck in the turnover game if the Rockets are to be triumphant on Friday.
“We averaged 2.5 turnovers a game last season,” Gorius continued. “That’s one of the reasons we were losing games by less than a touchdown.”
The Rockets will rely on both the arm and legs of senior quarterback Jake Best to lead them to victory, as Best was the leading rusher in last year’s battle with the Demons.
“(Best) is one of our better defensive players as well,” Gorius said. “He is a full-time inside linebacker this year, so he’s got a lot on his shoulders. He can handle the pressure. He’s a returning captain, but again, he has to stay poised. He can’t get rattled and he needs to control the offensive game.”
Westlake also has its starting quarterback from last year’s SWC co-championship team back for the 2013 campaign in senior Kent Axcell, but he will rely on a new cast of offensive weapons to lead the Demons to victory.
“First of all, it all starts with the offensive line,” Westlake head coach Mark Campo said. “We have some experienced offensive linemen back – four seniors and a junior – so that’s going to definitely help us. We also have junior Mason Makulinski (running back/linebacker), senior Paul Angola (running back/linebacker) and two others in senior Mike Victor and sophomore Jaquan Hardy, so when it comes to carrying the ball, we have enough people to spread it around and help Axcell out.”
According to Campo, Bay is not a team that his squad can look past.
“We haven’t seen (tape) on them yet, but I can tell you that I know they finished up well (in 2012), and I think they had Midview beat (the Rockets lost that game 36-30 in the fourth quarter in week 10 of last season),” he said. “I think Coach Gorius did a nice job and that team is getting better, and in week 10 they almost got a win over a playoff team.
“I’m sure they have those guys coming back and they’re ready to play ball. They have to think, a year later, that they can make some noise.”
The game will be played Friday at Westlake High School, starting at 7 p.m.