EASTLAKE—North’s offense scored on three plays of 57 yards or more and the Rangers returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns in a 41-14 nonconference win over visiting University School at Nick Carter Stadium on Friday.
The Rangers ran for 344 yards and forced four turnovers in the win.
“That was kind of the key tonight,” North coach Shawn Dodd said of the explosive plays and turnovers. “We were very explosive but on the flip side, we didn’t drive very well, especially in the second half. The positive is we were pretty explosive; the negative is I didn’t see the drives we wanted. I’d rather see some 12-play drives and eat up the clock. That’s kind of what we’re geared for.”
Mo Morgan took away North’s opportunity for an extended opening drive when he ran for a 77-yard touchdown on the first play of the game.
After stopping the Preppers on fourth-and-1 from the North 18, quarterback Chris Molica ran for an 81-yard touchdown on North’s third offensive play of the game.
“We are pretty fast,” Dodd said. “We’re probably faster than people think and we’re pretty explosive out on the perimeter. To be able to get those runs was nice to see.”
The early 14-0 lead allowed the Rangers to settle in and meet the challenges presented by their coaching staff after a 42-7 loss at Chardon in Week 1.
“We challenged them all week because last week we got knocked around a little bit,” Dodd said. “We definitely weren’t the more physical team last week and we really challenged the guys to step up and show that this week. I think they did that, so I’m proud of that.”
Molica added a one-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to push North’s lead to 20-0.
The Preppers finally cracked the Ranger defense midway through the second when Solomon Perez connected with Brian Kellon on a 27-yard touchdown pass.
That momentum didn’t last long as North’s Donyea Ward scored on a 57-yard run with 7:39 remaining in the first half.
Perez and Kellon hooked up again, this time on a 10-yard touchdown, with just 29 seconds left to cut the North lead to 27-14 at halftime.
While the Rangers limited the Preppers to just two fourth-down conversions out of six tries in the first half, they did allow the two touchdown passes.
“We’ve got to keep practicing,” Dodd said. “We had some blown assignments and gave up a couple of touchdown passes as well.”
North’s defense didn’t allow the Preppers to get comfortable in the second half.
Joey Valerio stepped in front of a Perez pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the third quarter and Joey Skolny opened the fourth quarter with a pick-six of his own to close out the scoring.
“I couldn’t tell you if it confused them or we got lucky or our kids made a great play, but we did do some things to disguise it schematically because we knew they liked to throw the ball,” Dodd said. “We knew we wouldn’t get home with pressure on some of their quick stuff so we tried to do it on the backend. I don’t know if that was the reason but it worked out.”
Molica closed out the game with 110 rushing yards on 14 carries and Morgan finished with 105 yards on just eight carries. Ward added six carries for 87 yards.
Skolny led the Rangers with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and Curtis Thomas and Adam Kleinhenz both recorded 7 ½ stops.
Nate Stuck also picked off a pass for the Rangers.
While the Rangers created many of their own opportunities, they also have some things to clean up before hosting Madison next week.
That starts with the unforced errors.
North committed 11 penalties for 110 yards and also made a mistake on special teams late in the game.
“My biggest take away from it was probably the missed assignment on the punt with the JVs,” Dodd said. “Not only did we blow the assignment but we had kids laughing and giggling and if we want to be an elite program we can’t think that that stuff is funny. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. I’m content that we won but something like that tells me we’re not where we need to be at.”