EASTLAKE—The North Rangers scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat visiting Brush on Friday 28-21.
Junior quarterback Chris Molica led the way for the Rangers on offense with three rushing touchdowns and a key fourth-down conversion to seal the game.
The Rangers’ defense made life difficult for the Arcs’ offense as they came up with three interceptions and forced three fumbles in the win.
“It’s huge anytime you get a win, especially after losses,” North coach Shawn Dodd said after the bounce-back win. “We’ve been in some close ones at half and quarters with some pretty good teams and it’s kind of gotten away from us. We have to do a better job at that, but it’s huge for their confidence.”
Molica opened up the scoring for the Rangers and capped off the opening drive with a 9-yard touchdown run. A missed extra point kept the score 6-0.
On the ensuing Arcs’ possession, sophomore defensive back Mo Morgan intercepted a deep pass by AJ Shorts setting up the Rangers at midfield. The Rangers were unable to capitalize on the turnover and were forced into a 3-and-out.
After a Brush punt and a turnover on downs by each team, James Walker broke free for a 35-yard run setting up North with a first-and-goal situation.
After a penalty, Dylan Froelich capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run pushing the lead to 13-0.
The Arcs looked to respond after the Froelich touchdown as Shorts drove the team deep into Rangers’ territory, but an interception at the two-yard line by John Lanning halted the drive and kept the score 13-0 going into the half.
“I thought our defense played outstanding,” Dodd said. “I mean they’ve got athletes over there. To eliminate all big plays from them is going to be impossible. They’ve got some studs, the quarterback is a good one, and they’ve got some athletes on the perimeter. So, they create some mismatch problems, but to be able to kind of hold them under control the way we did I thought our defense did an outstanding job.”
The Arcs came out strong in the second half as they marched down the field and capped off the drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Shorts to Jaymere Gilham cutting the deficit to 13-7.
Brush’s defense then forced a fumble on North’s next drive and recovered at the Rangers’ 30-yard line.
After the fumble, Shorts scrambled for 28 yards positioning the Arcs at the two. Jameel Shakoor punched it in for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Arcs their first lead of the night, 14-13.
The Brush defense continued its strong second-half play as the Arcs forced North into a 3-and-out on the ensuing possession, but a muffed punt gave the Rangers the ball back in Brush territory.
Instead of capitalizing on the turnover, North fumbled the ball away and the Arcs returned it 75 yards for a touchdown that pushed their lead to 21-13 with 2:28 remaining in the third quarter.
“They’re great kids and they showed resiliency,” Dodd said of the Rangers’ ability to bounce back after a tough third quarter. “There have been times in the past where you can see the body language kind of went south a little bit in those situations, but tonight it didn’t.”
The Rangers responded in a big way as they quickly moved the ball down the field and finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Molica. Molica carried it in for the two-point conversion and the Rangers tied the score with 11:57 left in the game.
North then forced a fumble on the ensuing Arcs’ possession but were unable to capitalize on the turnover.
Brush appeared to have taken the lead right back as Shorts completed a shovel pass to Shakoor, who took it 92 yards for a touchdown, but the play was called back on a penalty.
After the penalty, the Rangers’ defense forced another fumble and recovered at the Arcs’ 19-yard line.
The Rangers were able to score quickly after the fumble as Molica carried it in for his third score and the Rangers took a 28-21 lead with 5:11 left in the game.
Brush threatened to tie the game as the Arc offense moved the ball deep into North territory on the following possession, but an interception by Dom Marciante cut the drive short.
The Arcs’ forced the Rangers into a 4th-and-2 on their own 11, but Dodd elected to go for it. Molica was able to push forward for the first down, sealing the win for the Rangers.
“Just keep working on the little things,” Dodd said. “I still think we have a lot of talent. We’re young, we’ve got some injuries, but everyone has that at this point. We just have to continue to pay attention to the details and get better at the things we do and not worry about our opponents and not get down when things don’t go our way.”
Molica finished the night with 137 rushing yards on 20 carries and the three touchdowns. Froelich also hit the 100-yard mark on 21 carries and James Walker ran for 51 yards on nine carries.
The Rangers improve to 3-5 on the season and will travel to Mayfield to take on the Wildcats next Friday.