When Gary Quisno accepted the head coaching job at Perkins, he knew he'd face his old Oak Harbor team at some point in the 2008 season.
That day arrives Friday, when the Rockets (1-3) make the trip down Ohio 2 to Campbell Street for a showdown with Perkins (3-1).
Quisno was the head coach at Oak Harbor for nearly 30 seasons and racked up 240 wins as its head coach before resigning in January, only to find himself as the head coach at Perkins nearly a month later.
The Pirates have won three straight after opening the season with a loss to Bellevue. But the defense has tightened to the tune of 13 points in the previous three outings, including a shutout in Friday's 14-0 decision over Margaretta in the Sandusky Bay Conference opener.
After starting with three consecutive losses and not scoring in back-to-back losses, Oak Harbor picked up its first win of the season with a 34-7 win over St. Mary CC.
And no one outside the program knows what the Rockets are truly capable of better than Quisno.
"I think it's a team that's improved over the last couple of weeks. They're starting to come together," Quisno said. "We'll face Dustin Hernandez, who is one of the better athletes in the league, and he'll run behind a big offensive line."
And Quisno isn't eying the 1-3 record the Rockets bring.
"We look at it like they're 1-0 in the league and we're 1-0 in the league," he said. "This is probably the best team we've played all year since Week 1."
Hernandez has carried 44 times for 249 yards and four scores, and gained over 700 yards and 11 TDs for Quisno a year ago. Now he'll have to carry the ball against his former coach and a Perkins defense that allows 65.5 yards per game and one touchdown in the year.
"It definitely adds a little flavor to the ballgame," Quisno said of facing his former players. "This was one I knew was coming up when I took the job, and it's finally here."
The win over the Panthers was the first by new coach Mike May, one of four new hires by an SBC team along with Quisno. The coaching carousel is in the second of three weeks where all four coaches play each other. St. Mary CC coach Jason Ziegler and Polar Bears coach Rock Farlow are still winless, but one will break into the win column when they meet Saturday at Strobel Field.
The Pirates have already equalled their overall and SBC win totals from the 2007 season, and can surpass them with a win to stay atop the conference. The Pirates, picked to finish fifth in preseason voting, have higher aspirations and will need to do better than they have against the Rockets, who where predicted to place fourth, in recent years.
Oak Harbor has won the last two meetings -- and by decisive margins. The Rockets rolled to a 49-14 win a year ago and a 33-7 victory in 2006. Oak Harbor has a 5-2 advantage in the past seven meetings.
For Perkins to break the trend, it'll start with minimizing penalties at key moments, Quisno said, and with every player striving to do a better job in order to find more rhythm.
"Everybody's made plays, we've got three or fours guys who can run and we can throw the ball," Quisno said. "We just need to string more (drives) together."
Perkins' leading rusher, Paul Priestas, had his first 100-yard game against Margaretta and has 280 yards and four TDs, while Kyle Finn has added 252 yards and three TDs.
"We're both Wing-T (offenses) and both want to run the ball," Quisno said. "We both want to take control of the line of scrimmage, so we have similar philosophies."
In Quisno's mind, a game like this is won by minimizing mistakes, getting good field position and controlling the ball.
"There's a good history between these two schools," Quisno said.
Now the Pirates will see if they can swing it in their favor.