By Ryan Kaczmarski
In the first-ever West Shore Conference meeting between the neighboring schools of ROCKY RIVER and LAKEWOOD, the night was ripe for a hard-fought battle on the gridiron.
Hard-fought it was, with the Rocky River Pirates defeating the Lakewood Rangers 21-13.
The Pirates (3-3, 2-1 in the WSC) depended on the running of senior Martin Finnegan, who rushed for more than 100 yards, some quick strikes from quarterback Matt Lowry and big defensive plays to come out on top Friday night at Lakewood Stadium and ruin the Rangers’ homecoming festivities.
Rocky River scored on its first drive by rushing nine times, with Finnegan running the first eight and Mike Poe scoring on a 20-yard scamper (PAT by Tyler Wodzisz) to go up 7-0. Lakewood (2-4, 1-2 in the WSC) came right back and scored on a 56-yard touchdown run by senior Marquise Tyus (PAT by Jacob Antel) to tie the game.
The Pirates then scored two more touchdowns on long plays, the first on a 68-yard pass from Lowry to Bob Osborn and the second on a 58-yard run by Alec Hallal to make the score 21-7 going into the half.
The Rangers came out of the half and drove to the Pirates 5-yard line, with the big play coming on a 45-yard pass from Tommy Fuller to Capriese Jackson to give Lakewood first and goal, but the Pirates defense held strong, forcing the Rangers to kick a 28-yard field goal to make the score 21-10. Lakewood managed another Antel field goal to make the final 21-13.
“We told the kids at halftime, that it was going to take one play – either one play for us, or one play them – and they’re back in it,” Rocky River head coach Rick Adams said. “After that big bomb in the third quarter, our kids stepped up and kept them out of the endzone and made them settle for the field goal.
“The defense stepped up and it’s their win,” he added. “Offensively, we did what we wanted to do. We wanted to control the clock; I thought we did that, and the kids did an incredible job.”
Big stops are no stranger to the Pirates defense, as the squad delivered in the previous game against Elyria Catholic.
“Our defense has come up huge,” Adams said. “With adversity, the kids stepped up and played. You have to give them credit, all the credit in the world.”
The fact that the teams were playing for bragging rights between the two schools, was not lost on Adams.
“This was the first time we’ve played Lakewood,” he said. “I think this is going to develop into a great rivalry between us. They’re well coached and the kids play hard. For years to come, it’s going to be an excellent rivalry.”
Lakewood was coming off a close win against North Ridgeville in the previous game, but head coach Ron Lewis knows that the difference in this game was also a matter of a few plays going the Rangers’ way.
“You have to make those plays; we didn’t and they did,” he said. “That’s the difference between winning and losing high school football games.”
The Pirates will host North Ridgeville for homecoming Friday night at 7 p.m. Lakewood will travel to Bay Friday at 7 p.m.
AROUND THE WESTSHORE:
LUTHERAN WEST (3-3, 2-1 in the Patriot Athletic Conference) defeated Brooklyn 13-0 on Friday night at Brooklyn.
The Longhorns took a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter, when quarterback Greg Kunze connected with junior tight end Aaron Geye on a 54-yard scoring strike. It was the longest catch of Geye’s career. Sophomore Andrew O’Hara tacked on the extra point. The score remained at 7-0 in favor of the Longhorns at the end of the first half.
The Longhorns put together a time-consuming drive midway through the third quarter that resulted in a 24-yard touchdown run by senior Chris Ranc to pad the lead to 13-0.
Brooklyn was stymied all night by an aggressive Longhorn defense led by defensive coordinator Frank Petroff that produced five takeaways – including four interceptions, two by junior cornerback Derek Naim, and one each by senior linebacker Chris Ranc, and junior strong safety Greg Kunze. Senior defensive end Dan Hillenbrand caused trouble for the Brooklyn quarterback, batting down several balls at the line of scrimmage and creating a lot of pressure in the pocket.
Ranc had another outstanding game, carrying the ball 40 times for 180 yards.
Senior co-captain Ryan O’Connor had a huge game again blocking for Ranc and recorded 12 tackles at his linebacker position.
“We played a great game defensively and did what we had to do to win on offense,” head coach Dave Stupka said. “We gave a tremendous mental and physical effort tonight against a Brooklyn squad that played tough.
“We have a lot of areas to improve upon as we begin our preparations for Columbia.”
The Longhorns will host division leading Columbia Friday at 7 p.m.
NORTH OLMSTED (4-2, 1-2 in the Southwestern Conference) fell to Brecksville 23-15.
The Eagles were led by the running of Mike Starcovic (94 yards) followed by Brad Novak with 77 yards.
North Olmsted will host Midpark Friday night at 7 p.m.
WESTLAKE (5-1, 2-1 in the SWC) bounced back after last week’s loss to North Olmsted to defeat OLMSTED FALLS (0-6, 0-3 in the SWC) 26-6. The Demons’ Logan Paul ran for three touchdowns and Kent Axcell ran in another, while the Bulldogs’ Mitchell Dailey scored on a 1-yard run (PAT failed).
Westlake travels to Avon Lake Friday at 7 p.m., while Olmsted Falls travels to Berea Friday at 7 p.m.
FAIRVIEW (1-5, 1-2 in the PAC) fell to Clearview in a shoot-out 32-27. After trailing 14-0, the Warriors came back to pull within one point at the half on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Jason Kish to Cody Caja and a Noah Carpenter 12-yard touchdown run (PAT failed).
In the second half, Clearview took the lead again, before Fairview tied it up at 20-20 on an 80-yard Corey Schmidt kick return. The Warriors took the lead in the fourth quarter with a 29-yard Josh Elenniss touchdown run to make the score 27-26, but Clearview scored the final points on a 61-yard touchdown pass to make the final 32-27.
Fairview travels to Brooklyn Friday at 7 p.m.