North Ridgeville Wins "Battle of the Rangers"
North Ridgeville defeated Lakewood Friday night in the season-ending “Battle of the Rangers” football game. North Ridgeville’s “blue Rangers” prevailed 35-11 thanks to a fast start and four touchdowns from senior running back Shomari Williams. The loss wrapped up a year of considerable improvement for Lakewood, but it also demonstrated that the program has a long way to go.
The game started under dark clouds on a very autumnal evening. North Ridgeville took immediate control of the game, scoring on the very first play from scrimmage. Quarterback Matt Steinmetz hit senior Chad Williams with a 77 yard touchdown pass, staking Ridgeville to a very quick 7-0 lead. Lakewood’s sluggish start continued….after a “three and out” on offense, the defense gave up a 56 yard touchdown run to Shomari Williams, and North Ridgeville led 14-0 less than three minutes into the game. The “purple Rangers” then had another quick “three and out”, and Williams scored another touchdown on a fourth down run late in the first quarter. North Ridgeville led 21-0, and a rout appeared to be on.
Lakewood snapped out of its funk very late in the first quarter, when senior Jay Boyd intercepted a North Ridgeville pass with 31 seconds to go. The Lakewood offense then got a first down (its first of the game) and drove the ball into North Ridgeville territory. Senior Dayvon Hannible had the key play of the drive, a 28 yard carry. North Ridgeville stiffened, turning the ball over on downs to prevent a Lakewood score. The purple defense then held North Ridgeville to a “three and out”, which set the offense up for a scoring drive. Lakewood drove 54 yards on 11 plays to reach the North Ridgeville 6 yard line, and junior kicker Justin Crislip made a field goal to cut the lead to 21-3 with 3:53 remaining in the first half. Lakewood’s defense held again, keeping the score 21-3 at halftime.
Lakewood received the second half kickoff, which was an opportunity to build some momentum after a good second quarter. However, the offense stalled on its next two drives, and North Ridgeville followed each with a touchdown drive of its own. Williams scored both of the third quarter touchdowns, the second of which made the score 35-3 with 3:40 remaining in the third quarter. This triggered the OHSAA “running clock” rule. To make things even more miserable, the cloudy skies turned to rain during the third quarter. The chilly, damp conditions made for difficult ball handling.
Senior Will Adams provided the final touchdown of the game, a four yard run for Lakewood that made the score 35-9 with 1:53 remaining. Senior Basho Khawam then added the final points of the season, a two-point conversion run that made the score 35-11.
“That wasn’t the way we wanted to end it” Lakewood head coach Tom Hannan said after the game. He thanked his seniors for their tremendous efforts during the season, which saw major improvement over 2016. He also reminded the underclassmen that there is a lot of work to be done during the offseason to get the program where it wants to be. Conditioning and increasing the roster size will be major priorities. In the next few weeks the Observer will have an interview with Coach Hannan about his first season at Lakewood. We’ll look back at the gains that have been made, and look ahead to the challenges that face the program.
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