November 23, 2014

Elyria
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2012 high school football preview: Rangers focused on now

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NORTH RIDGEVILLE — There’s no sense dwelling on something you can’t change.

That seems to be the attitude of veteran North Ridgeville coach Jeff Riesen as he prepares the Rangers for the upcoming season.

North Ridgeville lost only two games last year — 35-7 at Division II state runner-up Avon to start West Shore Conference play and 41-0 to close out the year at home against longtime rival Midview.

Those losses knocked the Rangers out of the league race and kept them from a shot at getting in the playoffs.

“Midview was just one game,” Riesen said. “It was a rivalry game but just one game. Some of that was to their credit. Some of it was on us, but this is a new year and I haven’t really dwelled on that game or brought it up.”

All Riesen and his team can think about are the challenges of a new season.

The non-conference portion of the schedule begins with Westlake, a team the Rangers have opened against for decades. It continues with Maple Heights and North Olmsted, two teams that should prepare North Ridgeville for the tough and balanced conference race that includes newcomer Lakewood.

“Our long-term goal is to play more than 10 games,” senior flanker-cornerback Zack Bowden said, “but our focus is on Westlake.”

Riesen, as he always does, will try to get the best out of his senior class.

“We’re one huge family,” senior nose tackle and guard Phil Hicks said. “We’re focused on Westlake. We know the conference will be tough. We know our schedule is tough, but if you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best.”

“We’re just trying to get better every day,” senior tight end and outside linebacker Jake Lavelle said. “It’s up to us as seniors to show the younger guys how they need to prepare and step up to the varsity level. I want to contribute any way I can.”

That’s just what Riesen wants to hear. His seniors need to step up and show the underclassmen what North Ridgeville’s winning tradition is all about. The Rangers haven’t had a losing season since 2003.

“There’s no question the seniors are the key,” he said. “It’s a yearly thing. The seniors develop the team chemistry. It’s good to see that they enjoy each other’s company. They’ve had some meals together and they’ve gone to movies together. They paid their dues coming up playing freshman ball and junior varsity. Some of them got experience on the special teams and now they have to show the sophomores what’s expected of them.”

The Rangers return 15 lettermen and seven starters — two on offense, five on defense. Riesen will show multiple formations on offense — running some conventional two-back schemes as well as spread looks. His base defense will be the 3-4.

Lavelle, Hicks and Bowden figure to go both ways. Senior Paul Sonego returns at fullback and both senior Ron Traut and junior Jason Lucas have looked good at quarterback. C.J. Osborne has been impressive early at tailback.

Senior Terrell Lee and junior Jacob Buoff have been playing well at linebacker.

“Our conference is always balanced,” Lavelle said. “You have to be ready every week.”

Riesen figures Avon and Midview will again be the WSC preseason favorites but he pointed out that all the teams have strengths.

“We’ll try to find some depth in our scrimmages,” he said. “We’ll find out what we have. We want to keep the train running — keep the train moving.

“I’m always optimistic this time of year. Hopefully the team will fulfill the self-fulfilling prophesy.”

North Ridgeville Rangers

  • CONFERENCE: West Shore
  • 2011 RECORD: 8-2, 4-2
  • COACH: Jeff Riesen, 7th year (42-18 from 2006-2011; 98-39-2 overall at North Ridgeville and 196-91-2 overall — 31 years)
  • RETURNING LETTERMEN: 15
  • RETURNING STARTERS: 7
  • FAST FACT: Riesen’s father, Pete, won Buckeye Conference championships at Marion Harding in 1960 and ’61 before coming to Lorain Admiral King in 1964.

Schedule

  • Aug. 24: at Westlake
  • Aug. 31: Maple Heights
  • Sept. 7: at North Olmsted
  • Sept. 14: at Vermilion*
  • Sept. 21: Lakewood*
  • Sept. 28: Midview*
  • Oct. 5: at Rocky River*
  • Oct. 12: Elyria Catholic*
  • Oct. 19: Bay*
  • Oct. 26: at Avon*

*West Shore Conference

All games start at 7 p.m.

Read more previews

Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.