Rangers Fall on "Youth Night"
Lakewood football’s Friday night game at First Federal Stadium was the annual “Youth Night”, attended by hundreds of local grade school students. Grade school cheerleaders and football players were recognized during the game, and the cheerleaders had a chance to perform alongside the high school squad. Eighth grade musicians from Harding and Garfield middle schools joined the Ranger Marching Band during their halftime performance. Despite the off-field fun, the Shoremen defeated Lakewood 48-6. The game also included an act of tremendous sportsmanship between the two teams.
Avon Lake made the first score of the game, a one yard touchdown run by quarterback Jack Mikolich. As in last week’s game, the Rangers were quickly in a hole, trailing 7-0 just three minutes into the game. The Rangers looked good on their first offensive play, as sophomore Milan Jackson ran ten yards to get a first down. However, the next play was an interception by Avon Lake, putting the Lakewood defense on a short field. The Shoreman completed a two-minute touchdown drive that covered 26 yards, capped by a five yard touchdown run by Matt Sanders. The lead was doubled to 14-0 with 6:05 left in the first quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Avon Lake scored again on a 17 yard touchdown pass from Mikolich to Cole Schraff with 8:28 left in the second quarter. The Rangers then got a spark from their special teams. Senior Dayvon Hannible ran the ensuing kickoff back 55 yards to the Avon Lake 40 yard line. The Ranger offense came to life, largely on the legs of Jackson. He had three strong runs in the next drive, including a 20 yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 21-6. Despite a blocked extra point, the Ranger fans and sideline got a burst of energy. Another big special teams play on the ensuing kickoff further fired up the fans. The Rangers forced a fumble and recovered the ball at the Avon Lake 22 yard line. There were six minutes to go until halftime, and the Rangers had the ball with a chance to cut the lead to one score.
Junior Will Adams carried the ball on the next play, and was injured in the process. He remained on the field for several minutes while being tended to by trainers and medical staff. An ambulance came to take Adams to the hospital. That’s when something amazing happened. The Ranger players left their sideline to form a human tunnel by the Bunts Avenue gate….they wanted to make a gesture for their teammate. The Avon Lake players then joined them in a spontaneous act of solidarity with their fellow player. “That was a class act“ said Ranger head coach Tom Hannan after the game. He said the act demonstrated mutual respect for Adams, known as one of the toughest players in the conference.
After Adams departed on a stretcher, the game continued at a suddenly somber FFL Stadium. Lakewood fumbled on the next play, thwarting their effort to get back into the game. Avon Lake threatened to score again before halftime, but an interception by Ranger senior Austin Mahar stopped the drive. The Shoremen extended the lead to 28-6 midway through the third quarter, and the score held until the fourth. Avon Lake scored three more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the final score 48-6.
Lakewood fell to 0-5 on the season, and will next host North Olmsted at FFL Stadium. The 7pm matchup will occur on Friday as part of Lakewood High’s Homecoming celebration. The Eagles defeated Westlake 49-7 on Friday, pushing their record to 3-2.
Mike Deneen has extensive experience covering sports and community stories for the Lakewood Observer. Mike has been a Senior Industry Analyst for the Freedonia Group in Cleveland, Ohio, since 1998. He has appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell, NPR’s MarketPlace and has been quoted multiple times in The Wall Street Journal. He has made multiple guest appearances on ESPN Cleveland radio. Mike also writes for Inside Northwestern, a website that covers Northwestern Wildcat Athletics. You can reach him on Twitter at @MikeDeneen1