BEDFORD—North’s 30-22 loss to No. 3 seed Bedford in a Division II, Region 5 playoff game at Bearcat Stadium on Friday was the perfect metaphor for the Rangers’ season.
The Rangers finished the first half of the season with a 1-4 record before rallying for five straight wins to earn a playoff berth for the first time in school history.
After yielding 22 straight points to the Bearcats, the Rangers rallied in the second half to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Bedford scored the game-winner with just 41 seconds left in the contest and the Rangers’ season.
“There’s not a better group of kids to do this with,” said North coach Shawn Dodd. “They’re all great kids and to do this in my third year in the program, in my hometown, where I’m part of the community is something special. Outside of winning a state championship, this is as good as it can get and I’m really proud of all that we accomplished this season.”
Bedford jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead when Kenny Wilkins ran for a 5-yard score and two-point conversion and Emmanuel Jenkins then threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Davion Johnson.
Jenkins made it 22-0 in the second quarter with his 49-yard TD pass to DeCarleen Townsend.
As they have done all season, the Rangers battled back with a late 27-yard touchdown pass from Jake Tanski to Tyler Dodd and Kenny Streb threw a two-point conversion pass to Brad Burrows to pull North to within 22-8 with just five seconds left in the half.
That late score gave the Rangers the momentum they’d need in the second half.
“I told the guys if we score first after the half, it’s a one possession game,” Dodd said. “It wasn’t out of reach and they went out there and clawed back.”
Tanski connected with Streb on a 5-yard touchdown run with 3:43 left in the third quarter to cut Bedford’s lead to 22-15 and Tanski ran for a 7-yard score with 4:02 left to tie it. Spencer Wood was 2-for-2 on extra point tries.
“I love these guys and they’re my brothers,” Tanski said. “We came into week five 1-4 and I think where we are shows the determination we have.”
Bedford came into the game averaging over 49 points per game.
The Rangers weren’t intimidated, even after losing shutdown corner Louie Severino to an injury early in the contest.
Streb stepped in and did his best to contain the Bearcats’ dynamic playmakers. He broke up consecutive passes on third and fourth down plays in the red zone late in the fourth quarter to keep the Rangers within striking distance.
“I just kept telling coach, ‘Let me cover him, let me cover him,’” Streb said of Johnson. “There was talent on both sides. He was a great receiver, he’s really quick. When he beat me I just tried to catch up and that’s what happened there.”
Tanski finished the game 11-of-20 passing for 134 yards and the score and he also ran for a team-high 98 yards on 12 carries, including a 50-yarder that set up a North touchdown.
Brett Payne carried 19 times for 83 yards and Brad Burrows led the Rangers with six catches for 65 yards.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” Burrows said of closing out his career on the first North team to qualify for the playoffs. “I’ve been trying to go to the playoffs all of my high school career. No one has ever done it before and to be the first one feels amazing, especially this season with all of my friends on the team.”