Rangers show Northwest Ohio they are the real deal

J. Patrick Eaken

No one around Northwest Ohio is calling Northwood football or the Toledo Area Athletic Conference slouches anymore.
That used to be the theme on social media from Blanchard Valley Conference fans because Northwood was just 1-10 in playoff games until this year. Now, they know Northwood is for real.
This year, the Rangers blew out BVC member Van Buren 43-10 in a second round Division VI playoff game behind 408 yards of total offense.
Northwood (7-1) then lost on a field goal as time ran out to Green Meadows Conference champion Sherwood Fairview (8-0), 38-36, in the regional quarterfinals. Northwood had 454 yards of total offense in that game, including 322 rushing, but it was not enough. The game saw over 900 yards of total offense by both teams combined.
Before this season, the problem was not necessarily Northwood football — it was the TAAC schedule that prepared them for the playoffs. The Rangers would typically schedule three quality non-conference opponents, and then breeze through a league schedule that saw most games end in second half running clocks.
Last year, two TAAC schools went to eight-man football and were not on Northwood’s schedule this year. One of those schools, Stryker, cost a 10-0 Northwood football team the playoffs last year when they talked Northwood into moving the game to Sunday because of Friday night storms and then Northwood defeated Stryker 65-2. That win pushed Northwood out of the playoffs, even though coach Ken James had tried to talk Stryker into not playing it.
This year, Northwood got in and made a statement in the win over the Black Knights, which are 6-3 and had advanced to the second round by defeating Paulding (2-7), 16-0. James said the TAAC, with healthier roster numbers across the board, prepared his team much better for the Van Buren game.
“We played well. We got out of the gates fast. Defensively we played really well, and I thought that was a big factor,” James said.
“They were a two-back team that had the capability to grind the clock and keep the ball away from you and limit your possessions. We were able to get off the field a little bit on defense early, so that gave us a few more chances to have the ball in our possession the first half and we were able to make some big plays on offense. We scored on the first play,” James continued.
“We’ve got some fast guys, you know, (6-foot-2, 175-pound senior quarterback) Jay (Moten) and his brother (5-9, 168-pound senior back) Demond (Marks) are pretty quick out in space, and so we were able to get the ball out to them in the open. Jay scored on a quarterback keeper on the option on the first play, and then we got the ball out to his brother on the second play and were able to score the second time we had the ball by getting a big play out of that just on a short pass.
“Getting out of the gate fast, jumping on them with a couple scores plus we got two-point conversions — I think that helps us out confidence wise and it put them in a position. They didn’t throw it a lot, they have a young quarterback, so they are more run-oriented, but they had to come from behind and that helps us because that was out of character for them. So we were able to kind of maintain and build that lead a little bit by halftime and then eventually we were able to take some time of the clock the second half and put the game away. That fast start was crucial.”
Moten has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark rushing with 1,140 on 97 carries, good for 11.8 yards per carry. He has to be quite a catch for any collegiate program, and he ran for 145 yards on 30 carries against Fairview. He has scored 19 touchdowns.
Marks has 570 yards on 33 carries with eight TDs, 6-0, 181-pound senior Kyeon Neal has 353 yards on 44 carries and two TDs and 5-7, 165-pound freshman Zaegan Byington has 139 yards on 21 carries and two TDs.
In his passing game, Moten is 34 of 64 for 981 yards and 14 TDs with just two interceptions. Marks has caught 17 passes for 428 yards and five TDs and 5-11, 170-pound senior split end Brayden Fulkert has caught 10 passes for 432 yards and eight TDs.
Wild finish in Defiance
In a game moved to Defiance High School’s Fred Brown Stadium, it was an 87-yard TD pass from Moten to Fulkfert that brought the Rangers to within a point against Fairview late in the fourth quarter. Fulkert caught a perfectly thrown ball in stride and outran an Apache defensive back. Marks, on a jet sweep added the two-point conversion run, and Northwood led 36-35 with two minutes remaining. The Rangers had come back from a 35-20 deficit.
However, that gave Fairview enough time to march from its own 35 to the Northwood 12-yard line in 12 plays. As time expired, senior Caleb Frank kicked a 29-yard game-winning field goal.
Fairview, led by senior quarterback Doug Rakes and senior running back Luke Timbrook, had put up 292 yards rushing and 162 yards rushing, and James knew his defense had its work cut out. Bob Owin, who had coached at Lake and is now at Edon, had brought the spread offense to Sherwood years ago and now coach Doug Rakes was keeping the tradition alive. Northwood faced a similar offense in defeating Edon, 62-20, this year.
Northwood gave them the closest game of the season, scoring the most points. Heading in, Fairview had defeated Wayne Trace (47-0), Hicksville (50-7), Ayersville (63-15), Woodlan, Indiana (69-0), Antwerp (56-6), Edgerton (44-6) and Bluffton (67-6).
“Fairview is awfully good. They’ve scored over 400 points this year in their first seven games. They are really good,” James said.
“They are senior-heavy — I think they are starting one junior, so we had our work cut out for us. They throw it really well. They are real similar to Edon in terms of style of offense, only they are playing more seniors. For us, that is a big challenge because they have a good running back so that puts more pressure because most of the spread teams don’t run it that well. They have got a whole lot of capability to run the ball, so that was tough for us to defense.
“Their defense is not real fancy — they run a 3-4 and zone coverage, but they are good size guys. They are not gigantic, but they are reasonably big, and they are all pretty fast, so we had to play well. The margin for error when you are playing a team like them is that small, and we had to make sure we did not have penalties and get off schedule. We could not turn it over, so we needed to make plays on defense and get our hands on some of the passes they throw and try to get some turnovers.”
The defense caught on to Rakes’ passing game in the second half and limited completions, plus Fulkert from his defensive back position nearly had his second interception of the season late in the game.
Neal leads the defense with 76 tackles, 54 initial hits, three caused fumbles, four sacks, nine tackles for a loss, two fumble recoveries, A.J. Rable, a 5-11, 225-pound senior linebacker, leads the defense with 54 tackles, including 47 initial hits. Rable has two sacks, nine tackles for a loss, and he and Neal have both knocked down one pass.
Northwood closes its season this Friday, Nov. 6, with its Lemoyne Road rivalry game at Lake (4-4). Although there were injury timeouts in the Fairview game, James feels good about where his team is at, plus the Rangers got to deal with something different this year — a bye week in the first round of the playoffs.
“We are healthy, so that is a fortunate thing,” James said. “We got that week off. It was our only week off, and that was weird. We never had that before, but we were able to use that to our advantage. We got healthy and got some good practice time in and so on. That was a big deal for us. We did not know how we’d play after being off for a week, and so the fact we were able to get out of the gate quickly (against Van Buren), I think that was important. So, we are in good shape physically.”


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association