Story by John Blake
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Lakewood head football coach Mike Ribar probably couldn't have asked for a better first half Friday night against Midview.
The Rangers trailed the West Shore Conference champions by two scores at halftime, but they had held the offensive powerhouse Middies to 14 points. And, they were right in the game with the ball to start the second half.
However, things quickly unraveled with a failed fourth down conversion in their own territory. The Rangers couldn't recover during their 37-7 loss on Senior Night at First Federal Lakewood Stadium.
The Middies, ranked eighth in the latest Division II state poll, improved to a perfect 9-0. That being said, Ribar knew his team, which was in the midst of a five-game losing streak, had its hands full.
"I gambled in the third quarter there on fourth and short and we didn't get it," Ribar said.
"We get it, who knows?" he continued. "Maybe we go down and make it 14-7 and now all of a sudden you got them scared. I just thought we needed to make a play somewhere to make something happen against a team like this."
Trailing 14-0, Lakewood tried to roll the dice on its first drive of the third quarter. With the ball on their own 34-yard line, the Rangers attempted to go for it on fourth-and-one. But they failed to convert as they were stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
The momentum shifted right away. Three plays later, Midview's bowling ball of a running back, Brett Zupancic, plowed into the end zone from a yard out to put the Middies comfortably ahead, 21-0.
The visitors did most of their damage through the air as sophomore quarterback Dustin Crum threw for 231 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-28 passing. He also ran for 74 yards, including a 24-yard score late in the second quarter.
His favorite target was Logan Bolin, who caught a game-high 10 passes for 150 yards. His impressive 38-yard catch over a Lakewood defender put the Middies up, 27-0, with 4:30 to play in the third.
"That's been a thing this year, giving up that big play," said Ribar.
"On the offensive side, we get that one holding penalty or turnover at the wrong time when we're driving," Ribar said. "And on the defensive side, it's been giving up those big plays. They hurt you. Even though we've got 20 seniors, we're still a young team when it comes to playing those type of games against good teams.
"The boys fought, and that's what I'm proud of. We're never giving up, we're not quitting on anybody," he said.
Things started off promising for the Rangers. Midview drove the length of the field on its first possession, but Andrew Lesko picked off a Crum pass near the end zone. Later in the quarter, Ribar's squad had an 11-play drive, but it couldn't finish.
The Ranger defense was stout in the early going and kept the game scoreless until the 5:19 mark of the second quarter. That's when Crum connected with Dimitri Redwood on a 19-yard touchdown.
Lakewood's offense finally cracked the scoreboard and broke the shutout with a 12-yard run by Michael Johnston with 10:11 remaining in the third. That's one thing the Rangers have been able to count on the entire season, despite sitting at 2-7 on the season, according to Ribar.
"No one has stopped our run game all year," he said. "We rushed for 200 yards against the conference champions, so we know we can run it."
Lakewood finished with 206 total yards on the ground. Michael Goolsby led the way with 86 yards on 13 carries. Johnston and Quentin Palmer each carried the ball 10 times for 55 and 65 yards, respectively.
Despite the sixth-straight setback after a Week 3 win over Normandy, Ribar doesn't see any wavering confidence or frustration in his players. The Rangers think they match up well with 4-5 North Ridgeville and hope to end Ribar's first season on a high note.
"That's what I keep telling the younger guys, to learn from these (experiences) so next year it doesn't happen," he said.
"That's what I keep saying every practice. We're coming to work and working. They're not quitting on us," Ribar said. "That's what I'm proud of. We've got one more week. We really believe we can beat North Ridgeville, we think we can play with them.
"Our guys are right in that area where we want to take the next step. Just come out and play hard," he added.
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Click on the cameras below to view Larry's photos and video from this game: