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Published: Friday, 10/18/2002

Rossford doesn't want to share

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The objective at the outset was to win the Northern Lakes League football title.

With two weeks remaining on its schedule, Rossford has already accomplished that - almost.

The Bulldogs secured at least a share of the NLL championship with their sixth straight victory a week ago. But Rossford coach Tom Ferguson isn't content with sharing the crown.

More importantly, Ferguson hopes the Bulldogs aren't satisfied with possessing just a piece of the first-place pie heading into tonight's game at Maumee. A victory for the Bulldogs would clinch the league championship outright.

“Right now I'm concerned with where our heads are at in terms of going out and winning this thing outright,” Ferguson said. “With winning the league outright there's a possibility for us hosting a playoff game.”

Ferguson's 24th season as Bulldogs head coach has materialized into one of the program's most memorable in a long while. A loss to Oak Harbor in the second week has been the only setback for a team that stands 7-1 overall and 5-0 in league.

The Bulldogs, ranked No. 2 in the Blade's Division IV poll, have won three league championships during Ferguson's reign. They've qualified for the playoffs five times. This team appears to have positioned itself among those past Bulldog teams that experienced the kind of success that can have a positive effect on a small community's spirit.

This year's team, led by a senior class that was around when the varsity struggled to 1-9 and 0-10 seasons in 1999 and 2000, has provided Ferguson with a level of levity he hasn't enjoyed in years.

“It's been a very fun group to coach. They're a very relaxed bunch. They really enjoy playing the game. They have good chemistry and enjoy playing together.”

“I'm laughing because we've had some tough times over the past few years, and this is so gratifying.”

However, Ferguson knows there's still plenty of work to be done in the regular season - Maumee tonight, Anthony Wayne next week.

“I'm proud of the way we've responded week-in, week-out,'' he said. “We've played some tough teams. Our expectations were to win the Northern Lakes League, and our next goal after that was to try to make the playoffs.”

As for Maumee, 6-2 overall and tied for second place in the NLL with Southview and Anthony Wayne at 3-2, Ferguson said the Bulldogs must be prepared to play at their best against a defending co-NLL champion.

“Maumee is a very good team with a good record,” Ferguson said. “They have a lot of weapons. They've got a good quarterback in [Alex] Reese and a good tailback in [Chris] Jones and they've got a good supporting cast.”

Rossford clinched at least a share of the NLL title last week by posting a 26-14 win over Bowling Green. Maumee is coming off an impressive 45-17 victory over Southview to keep its hopes alive for at least a share of the title. A win for the Panthers tonight would pull them to within one game of catching the Bulldogs.



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