North Royalton Bears quarterback Joey Marousek dropped back to pass on third down during the opening drive of last week’s football season opener at North Ridgeville, briefly seeing a target down the middle of the field.
As the University of Akron commit’s pass spiraled through the air, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound safety in a North Ridgeville uniform suddenly appeared, intercepting the ball. He was brought down at the Bears’ 48, sending a bolt of energy to the home sideline. It appeared the Rangers had an advantage against a non-league opponent it hadn’t beaten in four years.
That safety was Dom Farago, a North Ridgeville sophomore making his presence felt at the start of a new season.
But the Rangers (0-1) weren’t able to capitalize on that turnover, and eventually lost to the Bears by a 40-20 final. Farago, who finished with four tackles and dropped what would’ve been a second interception in the third quarter, was a bright spot for a defense that started strong but was stunned by the Bears in a second-quarter scoring spree.
“(Marousek) was outstanding,” Rangers coach Luke Durbin said. “He’s probably going to be the best quarterback we see on our schedule. They’re a good team and they made plays.”
With the teams tied at 7-7 and just less than nine minutes remaining in the first half, the Rangers appeared to be settling in against the Bears, weathering their defensive pressure and, conversely, forcing Marousek, a four-year starter, to string together incompletions.
Things were going reasonably well. Then, the Bears struck. And struck again.
After Rangers senior Shane Swindig tied the game with an 11-yard touchdown run with 8:42 left, the Bears (1-0) retaliated immediately. On their next play drive, Marousek heaved a pass to Nick Evanko for a 74-yard touchdown. Then on the next drive, backed up to his own 4, Marousek needed one play to find Riley Knurek over the middle for a 96-yard score to quickly make it 21-7.
A long punt return brought the Bears to the Rangers 8, where Simon Antonio, a senior tailback, needed one play to score. After Rangers senior quarterback Caden Masterson was intercepted by Matt Van Steenlandt at the Rangers 27, Marousek found Michael Singer in the left corner of the end zone on the next play.
“We were jittery at first, getting a feel (for the game),” Bears coach Nick Ciulli said. “The offense wasn’t clicking, then Joey happened. He’s a great player. Then we settled down. At first, there was some tension, but the defense played great, then the offense got clicking and we were back to our old selves.”
In a total of 1:02, the Bears turned a 7-7 battle into a 35-7 halftime cushion.
“I don’t even know what happened,” Farago said. “That was just a good quarterback making plays.”
Marousek finished 5-for-15 for 237 yards and the three scores. Antonio led all rushers with 71 yards on 11 carries, and Knurek turned three catches into 136 yards.
“It was that eight-minute stretch where it went from, it was a good game before that and a good game after that, but in that eight-minute stretch we got totally outplayed,” Durbin said. “We couldn’t make enough plays offensively to gain momentum during that stretch, and we needed someone to make a play defensively and it just didn’t happen. It went from being right there in a dogfight to stretching out a lead like they did. It’s tough.”
The Bears managed a field goal and gained two points on a Rangers safety in the second half. In the fourth, the Rangers scored a pair of touchdowns on a 15-yard catch Tyler Richmond and and a 34-yard grab by junior Aden Vanover.
In his first varsity start, Masterson completed 11 of 20 passes for 113 yards and three interceptions, two of which went to Killian O’Callahan. He was also sacked four times and lost a fumble. Swindig had a team-high 70 yards on 20 carries.
Farago was also a weapon offensively, rushing five times for 27 yards and catching five passes for 37 yards. Used only sparingly as a freshman, he rarely left the field Friday, getting only occasional breaks.
“We go out and work hard every day in practice, (individually) and as a team, too,” Farago said. “I like to think of myself as a leader on the team.”
“He’s an outstanding kid, great family,” Durbin said. “He plays wide receiver, he plays running back, he plays safety, he’s on kickoff returns, I’m pretty sure he’s on kickoffs, and he’s on punts. I think he doesn’t come off the field. There’s some times when we’re two back and two wide receiver where Shane Swindig’s out tailback, but he’s done pretty well and he’s only a sophomore, so he’s got a bright future.”
While Friday’s game got away from them fast, the Rangers will attempt to clean up mistakes before heading to archrival Midview (1-0) Friday at 7 p.m. in the teams’ Southwestern Conference opener.
For questions about this story, call 440-871-5797.