NORTH RIDGEVILLE - A quick start and a strong finish carried the Rangers to their third straight win to open the season.
North Ridgeville used two first-half touchdowns to get ahead, then hung on with a strong defensive effort on a very soggy Rangers Stadium to defeat Garfield Heights 13-6 Friday night.
The Rangers held the Bulldogs to 71 yards rushing, 41 of which came on the lone scoring drive that Garfield Heights put together in the fourth quarter.
The Rangers took advantage of a fumble recovery by Christian Watkins at the Bulldogs 27-yard line to get on the scoreboard.
Following a loss of a yard, quarterback P.J. Bunevich connected with a wide-open Josh Hudson for a 28-yard touchdown pass. David Bowden added the point and the Rangers led 7-0.
North Ridgeville struck again with just 1:01 left in the first half as Bunevich capped a 61-yard, 11-play drive by connecting with tight end Matt Dawson for a 16-yard touchdown. The kick was blocked, but the Rangers held a 13-point lead.
"We played as a team again tonight," said Rangers middle linebacker David Riley. "We played hard and when the situation got tough the defense stepped it up and played as a team."
"The defense has gotten better each week and we need to because you know the old saying, defense wins championships," North Ridgeville coach Jeff Riesen said. "We gave up one touchdown and that was unfortunate because it came after a fourth-down try that we missed. As a program we know that those are the things you have to make. If you're going to go for it on fourth down, you have to make it."
The inability to make a fourth down at the Garfield 36 and two fumbles cost the Rangers scoring opportunities. The first one was on the Garfield 16-yard line on first down and the other at the Garfield 25 that stopped a promising drive.
With 2:19 to go in the game the Rangers failed to make a first down on fourth-and-1 at the Garfield 36, and it gave the Bulldogs a final chance to at least tie the game.
After Garfield moved to the North Ridgeville 46, Watkins stepped in front of a James Bennett pass and ended all hopes the visitors might have had.
Next week will be telling for the Rangers as they travel to Avon for an early showdown.
Contact Ron Nenadal at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.