It all came down to the final moments. Rocky River was driving. Time was starting to run out in the game. With the game tied, it happened.
The “It” was a fumble return by Lakewood. It changed the game. Instead of having a first down on their 8, the Pirates were now having to play defense at their 35.
The Rangers took advantage when Hakeem Quran scored six plays later with just 2:35 left to give Lakewood a 21-14 victory over the Pirates last Friday at Rocky River Stadium. The cross-divisional Great Lakes Conference contest improved the Rangers record to 4-0.
“I don't know what happened,” Lakewood coach Tom Thome said. “I just know Javion (Goudy) came up with it and returned it. That's what we've been trying to get them to do, not only cause a turnover, but do something with it.”
“I'm not sure what happened down there,” Rocky River coach Josh Wells said. “I'll just have to look at the film. They just outplayed us. Tonight, they just executed and we didn't.”
The turnover created some confusion on the field between officials. One called the ball down. After a conference, theRangers had the ball deep in Pirate territory.
Prior to the turnover, the 2-2 Pirates looked as if they were about to take the lead. Having their longest drive of the evening, the Pirates had a 11-play drive that was eating up most of the clock. Starting with 1:28 left in the third quarter, the turnover came with 5:12 left in the contest.
The contest had a contrast in styles. The Rangers had two long scoring drives earlier, while the Pirates used short field and big plays for their drives.
“We don't throw the football,” Thome said. “We play smash mouth football. We just want them to line up and run right at them.”
The leader of that attack was Quran, who finished with 139 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. He also caught a 22-yard pass for a touchdown. As a team, the Rangers had 166 yards rushing, while quarterback Lucas Winters completed 6 of 9 passes for an additional 86 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Rocky River finished with 166 yards rushing and 62 passing. Tommy Bebie was the leading rusher with 117 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
After Lakewood took the lead, the Pirates had a chance to tie the game, but one pass was completed through the end zone, while a fourth-down pass was slightly overthrown.
The game looked as if it might be one sided in favor of the hosts as the Pirates took a 7-0 lead with a 65-yard, three-play drive that was capped by Bebie's 45-yard touchdown run with 8:32 left in the third quarter. Mack Massad kicked the extra point.
Midway through the second quarter, the Pirates pinned the Rangers deep when Braedon Spies' punt was downed at the Ranger 3.
That's when smash-mouth football began to show. On the 12th play of the drive, the Winters threw a short pass to Quran for a 22-yard touchdown. David Burns' extra point tied the game 7-7 with 46 seconds left in the half.
Spies almost returned the second half kickoff, returning it 55 yards, setting up a five-play drive before he scored on a 4-yard run. Massad's extra point gave the Rangers a 14-7 advantage.
And then the Rangers drove again. Moving 77 yards in 14 plays, Lakewood tied the game 14-14 when Quran scored on a 6-yard run with 1:28 left in the third quarter.
“That is a good team,” Thome said. “Rocky River is a tough team.”
Meanwhile, Wells said he needs his team to get healthy and start playing better.'
“We're missing some players,” he said. “Johnny (Bebie) is hurt and so are a few others. That’s not an excuse. They just outplayed us. We just have to get better. We just have to get better.”
On Friday, Lakewood will host Normandy, a 39-22 loser to Fairview Park. Rocky River will travel to Elyria Catholic, which beat Holy Name 41-7.
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