North Olmsted Prevails in High Scoring Homecoming Game
Lakewood High School’s Homecoming weekend got rolling Friday with the annual parade and football game. A large crowd of Ranger fans, including lots of alumni, flowed into a windy First Federal Stadium after the parade to watch Lakewood take on North Olmsted. Lakewood, led by junior Will Adams, played its best game of the season against the playoff-challenging Eagles. However, North Olmsted won 49-38 behind an epic performance by junior running back Darren Anders.
Adams, a Ranger running back. was seriously injured in last week’s home game against Avon Lake. Known as one of the toughest players in the conference, he was taken off the field on a stretcher during a 20 minute game delay. He suffered a bruised kidney, but recovered in time to be medically cleared for this week’s game. He quickly made his presence felt, scoring a 12 yard touchdown run to put the Rangers ahead 6-0 on their second offensive drive. Junior kicker Justin Crislip added the extra point to make the score 7-0 Lakewood with 3:47 left in the first quarter. Anders immediately responded, running 66 yards for a touchdown on North Olmsted’s next play. That tied the score at 7-7 with 3:24 on the clock. The Rangers put together another nice offensive drive which was highlighted by a 30 yard Adams run. However, they were forced to settle for a field goal 35 yard field goal attempt into a strong wind. The kick missed wide right and the score held.
Anders struck again on the next Eagle play. He raced 43 yards to take the ball into Ranger territory. Then he ran for 28 yards on the next play, taking the ball to the Rangers nine yard line. Ryan Connolly punched in a two yard touchdown run to put North Olmsted back up 14-7 with only 15 seconds remaining in the first period. Lakewood responded with a touchdown in the following drive, which was sparked by a 31 yard run by senior Dayvon Hannible. Ranger quarterback Austin Mahar capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run that made the score 14-13 with 9:26 left in the half. North Olmsted committed a pair of penalties on the extra point attempt, moving the ball within the one yard line. Lakewood decided to attempt a two-point conversion, but the play failed. The Eagles held the one-point advantage.
North Olmsted put together a nice drive on its next possession, but was eventually stopped on downs at the Lakewood 31 yard line. Senior Camryn Cole made the fourth down stop against Eagle running back Sean Conroy, giving the Rangers the ball. They went “three and out”, punting back to North Olmsted. On its second play of the ensuing drive, Anders scored an 82 yard touchdown reception from Liam Fay. That stretched the North Olmsted lead to 21-13 with only 1:29 remaining until half. The Rangers put together an impressive “two minute drill”, including a 26 yard Mahar pass to Hannible and a 20 yard pass to senior Basho Khawam. Lakewood got to the Eagle one yard line with five seconds remaining. A penalty pushed the ball back to the six, so senior kicker Attila Nagy was called to make the 23 yard field goal as time expired. North Olmsted led 21-16 at the half.
North Olmsted took the second half kickoff and methodically went 60 yards on ten plays to score another touchdown with 7:02 remaining in the third quarter. The extra point made the score 28-16 North Olmsted. Disaster struck on the next kickoff…..the squib kick richocheted off a Ranger’s leg and was recovered by the Eagles. They put together a 7 play, 40 yard touchdown drive to expand the lead to 35-16 with only 3:14 left in the third quarter. Both third quarter touchdowns were scored by Connelly.
The Rangers responded with a 14 yard Mahar-to-Jay Boyd touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. Nagy added the extra point to make the score 35-23. However, Anders struck yet again on the next Eagle play. He ran 65 yards for a another touchdown to make the score 42-23 with 9:23 left. Lakewood responded with a seven yard Hannible touchdown run with 6:32 remaining. Crislip added the extra point to make the score 42-30. Anders then scored a nine-yard TD run on the next drive, pushing the lead to 49-30. Lakewood answered with another touchdown, a 66 yard touchdown toss from Mahar to Adams. A two point conversion pass from Mahar to Boyd made the final score 49-38.
“I’m proud as hell of you guys” Ranger head coach Tom Hannan told his team after the game. Despite playing without six starters, they had their best offensive game of the season. “It all came together” he said of his offensive unit after the game. He said that the move of senior fullback Jared Naida to offensive tackle has helped to solidify the line, creating opportunities. “He’s a warrior” Hannan said when asked about Adams’ amazing performance after last week’s injury.
The Rangers fell to 0-6, and face their toughest test of the season next week. They travel to Avon to take on the undefeated Eagles, who are ranked the #1 team statewide in Division II. Kickoff is scheduled for 7pm on Friday.
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