NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The Rangers did almost everything right against Elyria Catholic. They controlled the ball and came up with timely turnovers.
North Ridgeville just couldn’t score.
The Panthers stuffed the Rangers twice inside the 5-yard line on fourth down and escaped with a 23-13 win over their West Shore Conference rival Friday night.
“We moved the ball well in both halves,” North Ridgeville coach Jeff Riesen said. “The running game was clicking for us, we just need to put the ball in the end zone.”
The first goal-line stand gave the Panthers (5-3, 3-2 WSC) possession on their 1-yard line, but running back Justin Taylor fumbled two plays later to set up the Rangers again with first-and-goal. Jason Lucas scored from 3 yards out as the Rangers (1-7, 1-4) cut the lead to 17-13.
But North Ridgeville could not convert promising drives into points. The Panthers stuffed the Rangers again after a 10-play drive to the 3-yard line.
The Rangers held Taylor in check for most of the night, until the final drive where he racked up 30 yards on five carries, capped by a 3-yard score to give the Panthers a 10-point cushion they didn’t relinquish.
“Our whole offensive philosophy, whether we’re passing or running the ball, is to land jabs,” EC coach Mike Polevacik said. “We can’t be a guy that just throws haymaker punches. I told Justin to keep running for the tough yards, take every inch and it was enough to wear them down.”
The Panthers built a 10-0 lead within the first four minutes. Elyria Catholic started on the Rangers’ 35-yard line thanks to a 47-yard opening kick return by Joshua Pierce. The Panthers settled for a Jacob Moore 19-yard field goal.
Seconds later, on third-and-8, Will Washington took an interception 40 yards to the house.
“I saw the quarterback flip back his hips and I knew he was looking my way,” Washington said. “I flew out, got at an angle and jumped it. It felt great to set the tone.”
North Ridgeville didn’t fold. In fact, it switched quarterbacks — benching Ron Traut for Lucas — and ran the ball four straight plays on a nearly six-minute drive that was punctuated by Paul Sonego’s 1-yard run. Lucas led the Rangers with 94 yards on the ground.
“After the pick for the touchdown, I decided it was time to make a change and as a result our offense kicked into a long drive and we were able to get our first touchdown,” Riesen said.
DINGED UP: Two Elyria Catholic defensive starters got banged up. Middle linebacker Nick Kaszar didn’t return from half and Luke Michalski went down during a punt return. Polevacik held them out since the Panthers were nursing a lead for most of the game. “The injuries don’t look serious right now,” he said. “We just wanted to be safe.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.