MILLBURY — In a rematch of Northern Buckeye Conference opponents, the result was much of the same.
Eastwood followed a regular-season shutout of Otsego with a 41-14 pummeling Friday night in a Division V regional semifinal playoff game at Lake High School.
Eastwood's Jaden Rayford, shown in a regular season game, ran for 3 TD's against Otsego Friday to help the Eagles improve to 12-0 and advance to the regional finals.
Jaden Rayford paced a dominant rushing attack for the top-ranked Eagles, who improved to 12-0 for the first time in school history. The sophomore running back ran for 227 yards and three touchdowns, carrying and bruising defenders all night.
“Our line always works hard, and I know they do what they’ve got to do,” Rayford said. “As long as they keep pushing, I know we’ll do great things in the future.
“It’s unbelievable. Most teams are home right now. We’re just so thankful that we get to come out here and play every Friday.”
Eastwood will play Marion Pleasant in a regional championship game next Friday.
Rayford scored on runs of 62, 48, and 18 yards. He scored two of Eastwood’s first three touchdowns, helping the Eagles to an early 20-0 lead.
The Eagles forced three Otsego turnovers, all of them interceptions. Eastwood linebacker Tyler Schmeltz had two of those, including one that he returned 41 yards for a touchdown, accounting for Eastwood’s final score of the game.
Otsego quarterback Mitchell Downs, a junior, was 25-for-43 passing for 265 yards and two touchdowns, both to Austin Meier. Meier finished with 98 yards, scoring on passes of 11 and 5 yards.
The Knights (9-3) had no answer for Eastwood’s defensive line. They were held to just 17 yards rushing on 13 attempts.
“The goal when you play a team like this is to make the one-dimensional,” Eastwood’s first-year coach Craig Rutherford said. “We were able to do that. They weren’t really able to establish the run much.
“Even though they were driving it, they weren’t hitting a lot of long passes. So we figure that if we can control the game that way, at some point somebody is going to make a big play for us.”
On this night, it was Schmeltz making the big play.
Otsego cut its deficit to 20-7 on Downs’ 11-yard touchdown pass to Meier in the corner of the end zone with 3 minutes, 19 seconds left in the first half.
The Knights forced Eastwood to punt for the first time on the ensuing drive and Otsego took over at its own 8-yard line. On the second-down play, Downs was intercepted by Schmeltz, who jumped a short route over the middle. The Eagles took over at the Otsego 5, and Cooper Comes scored on a 4-yard run two plays later, putting Eastwood up 27-7 just before the half.
“We want to be aggressive,” Otsego coach Matt Dzierwa said. “Our offense, we were moving the ball all night for the most part. I thought we had a lot of time on the clock and it just happened. The kid jumped in front of it and made a nice play.”
The Knights took the opening drive of the second half 71 yards on 14 plays, capping the drive on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Downs to Meier. The Knights picked up a fouth-and-8 early in the drive, eventually cutting their deficit to 27-14 with 6:30 left in the third quarter.
Eastwood answered when Rayford’s 18-yard blast up the middle through a pair of Otsego tacklers capped an 11-play scoring drive that ate 5:12 off the clock. The score gave Eastwood a 34-14 lead.
Downs was intercepted again by Schmeltz on Otsego’s first play of the next drive. Schmeltz returned it 41 yards for the score, putting the game well out of reach.
“When an offense spreads it out they open up the defense to make more plays, so you’ve got to capitalize on those opportunities,” Schmeltz said.
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