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Defense, big third quarter get Eagles past Braves
Defense, big third quarter get Eagles past BravesBy Jim Horvath

Throughout the season, the North Olmsted football team has continued to show progress.

Two weeks ago, the Eagles dropped a tough 13-10 decision to Brecksville, but rebounded the following week with a 31-16 win at Midpark. Friday night, North Olmsted celebrated Homecoming with a solid team effort in a 28-20 Southwestern Conference win over Berea.

The win evened the Eagles’ overall record at 4-4 and raised their SWC mark to 3-2. A 21-point outburst in the third quarter and some stout defense down the stretch by the home team proved too much for the Braves to overcome.

“The last two weeks we’ve played much better,” said Eagles head coach Mike Ptacek. “Sometimes you don’t know how kids are going to react after a tough loss. We’ve responded with two very good team victories.

“We’re not going to look back. We can only look forward,” Ptacek said. “We’re proud of the way we’ve responded the last two weeks. We know we still have two more weeks to go, and we just want to keep this thing going.

“We’ve got two in a row. We’re just going to keep working hard and hopefully make it three in a row next weekend,” he added.

The two teams battled to a 7-7 deadlock in the first half of play, with the North Olmsted defense coming up big. In the final seconds of the half, the Braves had driven down to the Eagles 10-yard line. But with 4.7 seconds left, Berea quarterback C.J. Snider was flushed out of the pocket and stopped at the 7-yard line as time expired.

It didn’t take long for the North Olmsted offense to return the favor.

Marc Remy took the opening second-half kickoff and returned it to the Berea 43-yard line. Quarterback Brad Novak gained eight yards on the first play from scrimmage, then took it in from 35 yards out on the second play to give North Olmsted a lead it would never relinquish.

The defense forced a three and out, and the Eagles got the ball on its own 40-yard line. The running game continued to produce, as Shamir Tomlinson got things started with a 10-yard run. Novak ran a keeper for 12 yards, then Remy ripped off a 15-yarder out of the wildcat formation.

Three plays later, Remy had a 10-yarder to get the ball down to the Berea 9-yard line. Tomlinson gained four more yards, then Novak eluded a lone Berea linebacker and scored his second touchdown on a naked bootleg to the right.

Thomas Rodriguez added the third of his four conversion kicks on the night, and just like that it was 21-7 North Olmsted with 6:01 left in the third quarter.

Berea answered this time, getting a 35-yard touchdown run by running back Dan Medvetz with 4:36 to go in the third. The kick, however, missed its mark and the Eagles held a 21-13 lead.

North Olmsted then made it three-for-three on its first three drives of the quarter. The Eagles took over on their own 30 and marched down the field in nine plays, the final one a 13-yard touchdown scamper out of the wildcat by Remy. A 26-yard pass play from Novak to Tomlinson and a 13-yard run by Novak fueled the drive.

That made it 28-13 with the quarter coming to an end. But with Medvetz having a monster game, the Braves were far from out of it.

A 48-yard run by Medvetz put the Braves in business at the Eagle three. Two plays later, Snider ran it in to cut the lead to eight at 28-20 with 10:44 remaining in the game. The next North Olmsted drive stalled, and Berea got the ball back with 8:00 left.

Medvetz picked up where he left off, starting the next Berea drive with a 14-yard run. But a holding penalty and a big tackle from Eagle linebacker Brian Kozlak on a fourth down and 11 stopped the Braves in their tracks.

Berea had one more shot with 2:34 left in the game, but Alan Babinec intercepted a Snider pass at midfield to preserve the Eagles’ second straight victory.

“We were stressing effort in the locker room at halftime,” Ptacek said of his team’s second-half performance.

“We felt like they were much more physical than we were in the first half,” Ptacek said. “We only had 19 offensive plays, but our defense had a great first half. We wanted them to keep playing the way they were.

“Offensively, we wanted to get after it a little bit. We caught a couple breaks, got things going and scored 21 points in the quarter, which was great. We’re very happy with the way we responded after halftime.

“Medvetz is a tough, hard-nosed kid. They’ve got a good football team. They’ve played a lot of people tough the whole year,” he said.

The Eagles will remain at home to close out the 2011 season. Next week, they’ll take on Amherst, which lost a late lead in a 28-21 loss to SWC co-leader Olmsted Falls. The Bulldogs come to town for the final game of the season.

“For us, I just think it’s been more of a team effort the past couple of weeks,” Ptacek said. “Early on, either it was the offense played well or the defense didn’t and vise versa. We just couldn’t put a complete game together. Now, we’re starting to get better, which is great.

“We’re not going to look back on what could have happened. We want to win our last two and finish 5-2 in the conference. That would make it a very good year,” he added.

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