N.O./Westlake FB

North Olmsted head coach Tim Brediger hoists the Horns and Demons trophy after the Eagles beat Westlake 46-20 on Friday. The trophy is a commeration of the long-standing rivalry between the two teams.

Guercio's five touchdowns powers North Olmsted past Westlake

North Olmsted coach Tim Brediger preaches to his players that every team they face is a nameless, faceless opponent. But even the seventh-year coach admitted they had one game circled from the start of the season: Westlake, week two.

Last year, Westlake handed North Olmsted a 34-33 loss that dealt a major blow to the Eagles playoff chances. On Friday, however, in that week-two matchup on their home turf, Brediger and the Eagles got their revenge on the Demons, beating Westlake 46-20.

The victory also comes off a 17-6 loss to Eastlake North, which Breidger estimates is the first time in 14 years the Eagles dropped their opening game.

“I was happy (with) the end of the second quarter and the second half, our playmakers came out and we had some nice long plays (and) created some turnovers on defense,” Brediger said. “They present a challenge on offense with the size of their wideouts and their quarterback gets rid of the ball quick. I don’t think we had a sack all night. I think we might have had a couple of pressures. Hats off to them for competing and I’m just proud of the way our kids fought.”

Leading the offense for North Olmsted (1-1, 1-0 Southwestern Conference) was junior quarterback Anthony Guercio. Starting in just his second game for the Eagles, Guercio never wavered as he had a stat line to envy: 12 completions in 18 attempts passing for 215 yards and a touchdown, along with 78 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Neither Brediger nor Guercio anticipated this level of contribution on the ground, but neither are going to complain.

“I’m happy to get (those scores) anyway I can,” Guercio said. “Just to support the team and be there for the team, so if they come in the air, on the ground, wherever, I don’t care. As long as we win.”

North Olmsted fell behind from the first drive of the game as Westlake (0-2, 0-1 SWC) methodically marched down the field and scored on a 26-yard touchdown pass from senior starter Travis Monken to junior do-it-all man Dylan Bednar to put the Demons up 7-0.

Monken completed 20 of 33 passing for 246 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Bednar scored all three of Westlake’s touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) and had four rushing yards and 94 receiving yards. Junior Conner Gregory saw the most action for the Demons out of the backfield, carrying the ball 18 times for 73 yards

It took another three drives and until the end of the first quarter for Guercio to get the first of his rushing touchdowns (8 yards) and put North Olmsted on the board, but the Eagles still trailed 7-6 due to a failed two-point conversion.

Even struggling early, Guercio said the team never lost its composure.

“We just kept telling ourselves, ‘It’s (the) first quarter, (there’s) a lot of game left, keep chipping away, keep having faith in each other and that’s what we did,” he said. “It obviously worked for us.”

With the Demons leading 13-12 near the end of the second quarter, Guercio connected with senior receiver Avery Jones for a 38-yard catch that put North Olmsted on Westlake’s 2. One play later, Guercio sneaked in for his third rushing touchdown of the night to put the Eagles up 18-13 at halftime after another failed two-point conversion.

In the second half, it was all North Olmsted.

The Eagles added seven points on their first drive, this time coming on a 17-yard run by Jones on a reverse with a converted extra point to put North Olmsted up 25-13. The Eagles defense led to offensive opportunities throughout the game, but their capitalization in the second half was what sealed the deal.

After coming away with an interception and forcing a fumble in the first half, North Olmsted pounced on mishandled snaps twice in the second half, the second of which led to a touchdown on offense to increase the Eagles’ lead to 39-13.

“The defense saw a loose ball and got the ball,” Guercio said. “You can’t ask for anything more than that from them and it was great. A lot of our guys are going both ways, so they really came together … and put their hard work to the test and it really worked out for them.”

Each team added one more touchdown, with Westlake’s coming on a 2-yard run by Bednar and North Olmsted’s coming on a 64-yard screen pass to running back Samuel Capps II.

Despite coming up short and now sitting at 0-2 after two games, LaRocco is keeping a positive outlook and encouraging his players to do the same.

“I believe every kid that ever plays for me needs to know three things. And that is, number one that I’m proud of them; number two, I’m proud to coach this football team; and number three, that I love them,” LaRocco said. “I think it’s important right now in our development as we mature and as we develop as a program that our kids understand that I will forever be proud to coach this football team. Our kids play their butts off. I love their effort.”

Even after two tough losses to open the season, LaRocco also knows that this a team lacking the varsity experience that other teams have. And as tough as 26-point losses might be, he and the team see them as learning experiences.

“We’ll go back, we’ll regroup, we’ll watch film, we’ll get better,” LaRocco said. “We’ll keep getting better. That’s the only thing we can do. I think there’s a lot of progress as a program from last week to this week. Last week we had 13 penalties, nine pre-snap penalties; we had one (pre-snap penalty this game). It may not show up on the scoreboard this year, but we are making progress and I’m still damn proud to coach this football team.”

In preparation for Friday’s game against Olmsted Falls, LaRocco said he hopes to see his team improve on first down offensively and on third down defensively. The Demons come back home for a 7 p.m. kick against the Bulldogs.

For North Olmsted, the Eagles hit the road for their 7 p.m. Friday matchup against North Ridgeville, which is coming off a tough 30-14 loss to rival Midview. The main area the Eagles need to improve upon? Penalties.

“Last week we had one penalty for seven yards. I was very happy,” Brediger said. “This week, we had one penalty in the first two minutes, I think. That’s a big thing, we’ll take care of that tomorrow with film and Monday with running.”

Contact this reporter at jkopanski@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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