North junior Brett Payne rushed for a career-high 243 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Rangers to a 28-7 win at Madison on Friday.
Payne scored on touchdown runs of 57, 74 and 20 yards in extending the Rangers’ winning streak to four games.
“It felt great,” Payne said. “The rushing yards and the win couldn’t have been done without the great blocking by the offensive line and the wideouts.”
With both teams committing to the ground game early, the first quarter flew by with Madison chewing up nearly six minutes before punting from the North 40. The Rangers ran 10 plays to use up the final 5:57 of the opening quarter.
That drive ended when the Rangers failed to convert on 4th-and-8 from the Madison 21.
Following a Madison punt, the Rangers took over at their own 43 and Payne scored on the next play. Spencer Wood’s extra point made it 7-0 early in the second.
North’s special teams then chased down a loose ball on the ensuing kickoff and Jake Tanski threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Streb to increase the Ranger lead to 14-0 with 7:19 left to play in the first half.
“The special teams came up big,” said North coach Shawn Dodd. “We were up 7-0 and got a pooch kick we recovered. We were able to convert that and go up 14-0. We wanted to get the lead and force them into situations where they had to pass and we were able to do that.”
North’s defense, which allowed just 175 yards of offense, forced a pair of Madison punts and Payne followed up the second with another first down touchdown run, this time from 74 yards out, to push the lead to 21-0 with 2:57 left in the second quarter.
“The team played well overall,” Dodd said. “We controlled the clock, Brett Payne went off and the defense played really, really well.”
Payne’s third touchdown of the night came late in the third quarter when the Rangers faced a 3rd-and-10 at the Madison 20.
The Rangers ran for 290 yards on 39 carries.
“We started in a kind of three-back set with some up backs and got some yardage but Madison defended it pretty well, so we got into some one-back and spread it out a little bit,” Dodd said. “They’re big and physical but I think our speed was a little bit too much for them. Brett Payne and Jake Tanski ran the ball well.”
Madison started the fourth quarter with a long drive that ended in the red zone.
A Ken Cline run set the Blue Streaks up with a 1st-and-goal at the North 1 but the Rangers’ stood tall to keep the shutout intact.
“We had a huge goal-line stand,” Dodd said. “They had a 1st-and-goal and didn’t get in. They got one late but the defense played really well. They stopped the run. Madison doesn’t really pass much, so we wanted to keep them in passing situations as much as possible.”
Madison’s Michael Woody ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game to close out the scoring.
With the win, North improved to 5-4 on the year and unofficially sits in seventh place in the Division II, Region 5 playoff standings. A win over Chardon in Week 10 would guarantee the Rangers a spot in the postseason for the first time in school history.
North finished fifth in the computer points in 1994 but only the top four qualified for the postseason at that time.
“The excitement around us (possibly) going to the playoffs is insane,” Payne said. “The whole community is supporting us. Next week against Chardon is going to be a tough, must-win game. It should be a fun one.”
North hosts the 6-3 Hilltoppers on Friday at Nick Carter Stadium.