Rangers Beat River in a Thriller

The Lakewood Ranger football team earned their biggest win in a decade on Friday night, defeating Rocky River 21-14 at Rocky River Stadium.  The victory makes the Rangers 4-0 on the season, and legitimizes the team’s playoff hopes. The game was played on a beautiful evening in River before an enthusiastic crowd. A large contingent of Ranger fans filled the eastern bleachers of the stadium, and they did not go home disappointed.   

                Rocky River, which entered the game at 2-1, controlled the game in the early stages. Lakewood received the opening kickoff and gained only four yards on its first drive. The Pirates then scored on their first possession, moving 65 yards in only three plays. Senior running back Tommy Bebie ran 45 yards for a touchdown that gave River a 7-0 lead only three and a half minutes into the game.

                Lakewood went “three and out” again on its second possession, as the Pirate defense effectively contained Ranger running back Hakeem Quran. The Ranger defense stiffened on the next drive, due in part to a sack by senior lineman Brandyn Bates. Neither team could score through the rest of the opening quarter, and the score remained 7-0.

                Midway through the second quarter, River made an excellent special teams play. Punter Braedon Spies (who also plays quarterback) pinned Lakewood back at its three yard line with a directional punt. The Rangers responded with their best offensive drive of the season, marching 97 yards in five minutes for a touchdown. Quran, who gradually wore down the Pirate defense throughout the evening, made some key runs early in the drive. Senior quarterback Lucas Winters completed a 20 yard pass to sophomore Alex Symons to put Lakewood in “the red zone”. The drive was capped by a 23 yard pass from Winters to Quran for a touchdown. Sophomore David Burns made the extra point to tie the score 7-7 with 46 seconds remaining in the half. Senior linebacker Jay Goudy then recovered a Pirate fumble to thwart River’s final drive of the half, keeping the score tied.

                As it did in the first, River began the second half very strongly. Spies returned the opening kickoff 55 yards to give his team a short field. He then capped a touchdown drive with a three yard run to put the Pirates back ahead 14-7 with 9:05 left in the third period. Lakewood then responded with another outstanding offensive drive. They went 77 yards on 14 plays, eating over seven and half minutes off the clock with their ground attack. Quran carried the bulk of the load, although Winters had a key 24 yard sprint during the drive. Quran scored a six yard touchdown on a fourth-and-two play, electrifying the Ranger fans in attendance. Burns added the extra point, tying the game 14-14 with 1:22 left in the third quarter.

                River then put together an excellent drive, going 78 yards on 13 plays to reach the Rangers 8 yard line. The Ranger defense then made the biggest play of the game with 5:12 left on the clock. They forced a fumble inside the ten yard line, which Goudy recovered and ran all the way back to midfield. Not only did River fail to take the lead, but Lakewood now had an opportunity to win in the final minutes.

Lakewood went on a six play touchdown drive – all Quran runs – to take the lead with 2:35 remaining in the game. Junior kicker Justin Kieries made the crucial extra point that made the score 21-14.  Rocky River’s final drive stalled at the Ranger 36 yard line, where an incomplete fourth down pass with 46 seconds left sent Ranger fans into a frenzy. The offense went into “victory formation” and celebrated their big win.

The Rangers return home next week to face Normandy at First Federal Stadium on Friday night at 7pm.  The Invaders are 1-3 on the season, coming off a loss Friday night to Fairview. Lakewood is in a good position to make the OHSAA [non-Covid] playoffs for the first time since 2003. Four of the Rangers six final games will be at home, with the other two both taking place at Byers Field (against Parma and Valley Forge).

Mike Deneen

Mike Deneen has extensive experience covering sports and community stories for the Lakewood Observer. Mike was a Senior Industry Analyst for the Freedonia Group in Cleveland, Ohio for 17 years. 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 has also written for Inside Northwestern, a website that covers Northwestern Wildcat Athletics. You can reach him on Twitter at @MikeDeneen1 

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Volume 17, Issue 18, Posted 10:51 PM, 09.10.2021