James approaches 200th win: Rangers, ‘Cats clash in ‘old’ Suburban Lakes contest

Yaneek Smith and Mark Griffin

Separated by 13 miles via State Route 51 and being old Suburban Lakes League rivals, it only makes sense that Northwood and Woodmore would play each other.
        Playing one another for the last three years has created a great deal of respect between the Rangers and Wildcats, both of whom come into this season with optimism.
        "Proximity is one reason," said Woodmore coach Lou Bosh. "I think, with Ken James' teams, they're always well-coached and we know we'll get quality play from playing them in the hope that we can get better. I feel we always had good games with them back when we were in the SLL and sometimes even then after that when we played them. We just wanted to get back to that. We felt that was a good matchup for us."
        It could be the first step for Northwood coach Ken James, who enters the 2019 season looking for his 200th career win with the Rangers. He has 193 wins entering the season.
Northwood rolled through the Toledo Area Athletic Conference last season and reached the Division VI playoffs, losing at Jeromesville Hillsdale in the first round.
Northwood is coming off a 9-2 season, one that saw them dominate the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, win the league and reached the Division VI playoffs, losing at Jeromesville Hillsdale in the first round. Woodmore, which played its share of underclassmen last year, went 0-10. This year, the TAAC has been reduced to seven teams due to Toledo Christian dropping out and going to eight-man football.
“If we stay healthy, we can be a real competitive team,” James said. “We have to get out of the gate fast. Right now the chemistry is becoming what we want it to be, and that helps a team be competitive. We have a string of tough games early and we have to get through that healthy.”
        The Wildcats have a challenging non-conference schedule. Following their game with the Rangers, Woodmore faces Gibsonburg and Lakota on the road. Northwood faces Lemoyne Road rival, Lake, in their second game and travels to Elmwood in week three.
        "We certainly hope we take those steps (to get better) and know that having that experience, and having been through the fire that we've gotten better and we need to show that," said Bosh, who returns 10 seniors. "We're hoping the experience from all those younger years pay off."
Rangers 3, Wildcats 0 recently
        The Rangers have won the last three times the teams have played, including a 49-7 victory last year.
        Northwood returns nine starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Jay Moten, who accounted for nearly 2,000 yards of total offense and 26 touchdowns last season. He will be joined in the backfield by three seniors running backs — Anthony Williams, Austin Cole and Dalton Dempsey.
        Bosh talked about the importance of being disciplined defensively when trying to stop the Rangers' wishbone offense.
        "It's tough. It's about responsibility with option football. One week, you play a team like that to another team the next week that runs the Wing-T to the next week playing a spread concept," Bosh said.
"We've got our work cut out for us. Can we be disciplined and do our job? We've got to defeat blocks and get to the ball carriers. Coach James runs that offense very well. He's done that over the years. It's tough, especially when he has kids that have speed and run that well."
        James, now in his 34th year, was coach of the Rangers when both teams were in the SLL. Northwood joined the conference in 1986 and stayed until 2000 before leaving for the TAAC.
        "(Lou) does a great job running their program. They create a mountain of difficulty for us. They've run multiple offenses against us that were tough to prepare for. Lou is a first-class guy, he's doing a great job, and he's got a good coaching staff. He's going out there playing (with low numbers). I think Rossford will have 55-60 kids.
        “Lake is in the mid 50s, Genoa is typically in the 50s. One of the problems in football is if you less bodies, you're forced to play younger kids. (Woodmore has) to play freshman and sophomores.
        "We always had a good relationship with them when we were in the SLL. They're a first-class program, the athletic administration, the coaching staff. They're about our size, the proximity is close, and it's going to equate to good crowds for both sides and good gates. It seems like a good matchup for us. It's nice to not have to ride a bus for an hour-and-a-half to play someone."
        For Woodmore, Aaron Sandrock returns at quarterback and Dylan LaFountain and D.J. Melter are back at running back. Sandrock will have Aaron Barringer to throw the ball to and Evan Hensel, who filled in at quarterback after Sandrock got hurt last season, also returns.
        James says there are other challenges facing Woodmore and Elmwood, who are much smaller than the rest of the teams in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
        "We're in a situation in a lot of communities where things change over time. Lake, Genoa and Eastwood used to be in the Northern Lakes League, so was Rossford, and that wouldn't be a good place for them to be now," James said.
        "I know communities kind of get set in their ways, but if one community shrinks or others grow, you might have to make a change. I'm aware that athletic department finances are a part of the equation, if you are playing schools that are nearby. I think it's important to give your kids a fair opportunity to compete.  I think league realignment is good over time. But it's tough for communities to look at it that way. There's hesitancy from most people to do that."


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