PEMBERVILLE — Fate, even when hidden inside a successful package, can still be cruel.
In its 60th season of varsity football, Eastwood is the No. 1 ranked Division V team in Ohio, and the Eagles may be in the midst of their best season in school history.
But, as they take the field for whatever remains of this potentially magical season, the Eagles at the same time rue the loss of one of their most talented players.
Just four plays into a season-opening 39-7 win over Ottawa-Glandorf, fourth-year, two-way starter Cade Boos ran headlong into that cruel side of fate.
“We kicked off, stopped them three-and-out, then I got the punt return,” Boos said. “I caught it, started running, cut back to the middle, a bunch of guys tackled me, and I felt a pop.
“I just thought I rolled my ankle, so I hobbled off the field. I didn’t know until the next day, and I wasn’t expecting anything like that. It was broken, my ligaments were torn, and I needed surgery.”
Not only would Boos, a three-sport standout, miss the rest of his much-anticipated senior football season, his post-surgery prognosis will have him missing most of his final basketball season as well.
The best he can hope for is a few late-season basketball games, if his rehab goes well, and a full baseball season as the Eagles’ fourth-year standout center fielder.
“I have a broken fibula and I tore a ligament and messed another one up,” Boos said of the physical damage. “I got a plate put in and about six screws, and then a big screw to hold my ligament in. It’ll have to be taken out after baseball season.”
And then there’s the emotional damage.
“I’ve had a lot of success here, and we’ve had a lot of success with our teams,” Boos said. “I’ve been a part of all that in the three sports, and we had a lot of high hopes for everything. I knew our class was going to do something special.
“So, to be hurt and be out for the season the first time you touch the ball in the first game of your senior year — and not be able to play football with your teammates on Friday night anymore — it broke my heart.”
Boos, who was a first-team All-Northern Buckeye Conference selection in all three sports as a sophomore and junior, is not ashamed to say how much he misses competing.
“I’ve cried a ton,” he said. “I teared up last Friday when they played Otsego because I just wanted to go out there and play. I cried a lot early on because I was so heartbroken.
“All my life was sports, and I couldn’t play football. It was taken away from me. That was a rough [first] two weeks for my family. Everybody was heartbroken about it.”
Father and mother Loren and Cori Boos, and their two younger sons and daughter, shared in Cade’s disappointment.
His teammates are also empathetic.
“I feel terrible for him,” Eagles senior quarterback Jake Pickerel said. “I’ve grown up with him since I was 2 years old. We live across the street from each other. It had a big impact on his life, and his family’s, and mine and my family’s too.
“He was a really good player. Our passing game was affected a lot, and so was our kick return and punt return. He’s just an athlete. He’s helping out with the coaching and trying to do things with the play calling. Anything he can do to help.”
“When we found out the news the next day we were all heartbroken,” said 6-1, 290-pound senior offensive tackle Addison Clark. “We knew we wouldn’t have one of our friends out there with us ever again.
“But we had to move on and keep going because we had a big game that week. I feel like we really look to him now as motivation to keep going.”
Part of the recovery process is that Boos has become the No. 1 fan of the No. 1 team, hobbling along the Eastwood sidelines — alternating between crutches and a scooter. He zig-zags through teammates and coaches, encouraging the players and assisting the coaches with strategy suggestions spawned from his special expertise on the game.
“I want to do whatever I can do now to help them out because I want the best for them” Boos said. “I watch film and try to break down plays to try to help them out for the next week. On the sidelines, I talk to my position [players].
“I’ve been here so long, I know a lot about it, and a lot about football. If I see something I think will work, I tell Coach Rutherford about it, and we see what we can do from there.”
The Eagles are 7-0 overall, and 4-0 in the Northern Buckeye Conference at 4-0 entering Friday’s home game against Woodmore. Eastwood is outscoring opponents 38-8 per game, and last week took a decisive 39-0 victory at Otsego.
Eastwood trademark Wing-T offense is clicking along for 326 rushing yards per game, part of their 366-118 per-game edge over foes in total offense.
Sophomore back Jaden Rayford, despite missing some time early in the season to an injury, leads the Eagles with 880 yards on 130 carries with 14 touchdowns.
Senior back Ian Downard has 647 yards on 87 rushes and nine TDs, and sophomore Justin Pickerel has 342 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Jake Pickerel has triggered the ground attack, and added 282 passing yards and five TDs.
Leading Eastwood’s 4-4 defense in tackles have been linebackers Tyler Schmeltz (51), Downard (48) and Cory Coffman (41), defensive end Zach Henline (48), safety Alex Ross (44), and nose guard Seth Welch (36). Henline has 12 tackles for loss, and Welch has eight tackles for loss.
The Eagles — who have undergone a smooth head coaching transition from 35-year veteran Jerry Rutherford (227-140 record) to son Craig Rutherford — finish the regular season with games against NBC contenders Genoa (6-1, 3-1) on the road and Lake (5-2, 3-1) at home.
“It was really hard when we found out the extent of the injury,” Craig Rutherford said of Boos. “When he first got hurt he hobbled off. It looked like an ankle sprain, and he’d miss maybe a week or two and be back for league play.
“When he came back in the next day and said he was done for the year, it was like somebody punched you right in the gut. The hardest part about the end of a season is realizing that you’re never again going to get to coach some of the guys who have meant so much to you. To have that happen to him in week one was pretty difficult.”
Eastwood’s new coach, previously an Eagles assistant for seven years after playing for his father, saw Boos develop during the past three seasons.
“As a playmaker, he had the ability to turn a short play into a big gain any time he touched the ball,” Rutherford said. “As far as understanding the game, he’s probably had the best understanding of anybody I’ve coached. He sees things that most players and some coaches don’t see.
“He helps us with that now. It’s like having another coach, and in some ways better because he’s played in the system and sees some things that maybe we wouldn’t.”
How far can the current team go?
“That’s really hard to say,” Rutherford said. “These guys are pretty talented, and it’s a really deep group.
“But you never know who you’re going to get matched up against in the playoffs. It’s the luck of the draw there. But I would put these guys up there with any team that I can remember here.”
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