Eastwood coach is chip off of old block
By STEVE RUMAN
Hiring a Rutherford at a young age apparently is the blueprint for success for the Pemberville Eastwood High football program.
In 1982, Eastwood hired 22-year-old Jerry Rutherford as its head coach. During his 35-year career at the school, Rutherford compiled a 227-140 record, winning 10 conference titles and advancing to the playoffs 10 times.
When Rutherford retired at the end of the 2016 season, Eastwood turned to his son, Craig Rutherford to take over the helm.
At 29 and in his first year as a head coach, Craig has led the Eagles to a 13-0 record and a berth in the Division V state semifinals.
Tonight, Eastwood and South Range will meet at Pat Catan Stadium in Strongsville for the right to advance to next week’s state title game.
“I guess I never think about myself as being a young coach, because this is all I’ve ever known,” Craig Rutherford said. “I’ve been on the sidelines as long as I can remember, I was there for two-a-days when I was 5 years old.”
“As far back as elementary school, while other kids were aspiring to be players, I wanted to be a coach. This is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
A 2006 graduate of Eastwood, Rutherford played for his dad for four varsity seasons. He then lettered in football for three years at Bowling Green State University. He joined his father’s staff in 2010, and served as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator from 2011 to 2016.
Rutherford is a junior high math teacher in the Anthony Wayne School District.
“I never really thought about being the head coach at Eastwood, but when my father stepped down, I knew I wasn’t ready to leave the program,” Rutherford said. “I just enjoy being there, I enjoy the people, so I thought I would give it a shot.”
“Was there pressure? Absolutely. I’m not only following a legend, but I’m following in my dad’s footsteps. I knew there would be comparisons, but at the same time I knew my dad left the program in good shape.”
In addition to returning a wealth of talent from a 2016 team that went 10-2, Rutherford said his rookie season was given a boost by a veteran coaching staff which for the most part remained intact following his father’s departure.
“I have three former head coaches on my staff. I have five guys who played here for my dad, so that has made for a pretty smooth transition,” Rutherford said. “Those guys really are the backbone. They have made my job much easier.”
Eastwood’s closest game this year was a 38-31 win over Genoa (8-3). All of its other victories were by 20 or more points. The Eagles have outscored three playoff opponents 124-14.
Eastwood is making its first state semifinal appearance.
So, has dad been content with being an Eagles fan for the first time in over three decades?
“He’s at our games, but doesn’t come to practices, he never tries to offer any advice unless he’s asked,” Rutherford said. “But do I pick his brain? Absolutely. Who wouldn’t want to tap into that knowledge?”
Pemberville is located in Wood County, 22 miles south of Toledo.