Even as long drives stalled and frustration started to creep in for the North Ridgeville Rangers football team, Shane Swindig kept churning ahead.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound senior running back was featured heavily Friday in a 30-14 loss to rival Midview at Adelsburg Stadium in Grafton. Swindig gained a game-high 108 yards on 27 carries. He was one of many Rangers who were unable to reach the end zone, however, as the Middies (2-0, 1-0 Southwestern Conference) did just enough defensively to halt any momentum.
Swindig, who led the Rangers (0-2, 0-1 SWC) in rushing a year ago has taken on more of a leadership role this season. With 47 attempts and 178 yards through two games, his number has been called early and often. And he’s ready to carry the load.
“I do as much as I can to help these guys win,” said Swindig, who also plays in the team’s defensive backfield. “If they need me to carry the ball, I’ll carry the ball. If I need to play defense, I’ll play defense the whole game. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Behind a veteran offensive line, Swindig had 64 yards on 16 carries by halftime Friday, but the Rangers jogged to the locker room trailing 16-7 thanks to a pair of miscues.
On the first drive of the game, the Rangers lined up to punt from their own 14, but the snap sailed high and out of the end zone for a safety. Down 9-0 late in the second quarter, senior Caden Masterson’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Mason Grow cut the deficit to 9-7 with 34.4 seconds left. The Middies came right back and drove 68 yards in five plays, scoring on a 49-yard hail mary pass from senior quarterback Ethan Surdock to sophomore Bryce Newton as time expired.
That play caused the game to suddenly turn.
“What (Newton’s score) did was make it a two-score game instead of a one-score game, and changed the complexion of the game,” Rangers coach Luke Durbin said. “I don’t know if it changed momentum. It was deflating, but I thought our kids came out after halftime and battled hard, moved the ball, but that (touchdown) changed the complexion of the game and made it a two-score game.”
In the second half, the Middies and padded their lead with a short field. A Ranger block in the back placed them at their 45 to start the third quarter, and with the help of two more North Ridgeville penalties, Midview scored when Surdock found Joseph Bratkowski for a 20-yard pass down the visitor's sideline, making it 23-7 with 9:28 left. Two plays before that, a costly pass interference called against the Rangers moved the Middies into the red zone.
Senior Tyshawn Nelson, a 6-1, 241-pound bowling ball of a runner, scored from 6 yards out to push the Midview lead to 30-7 with 7:17 left to play. The Rangers responded on the ensuing drive when Masterson hooked up with Aden Vanover on a 19-yard touchdown pass, but time eventually ran out on a North Ridgeville team that struggled to finish drives all night.
“We couldn’t finish I don’t even know how many times,” Swindig said. “We’ve just got to execute better, because that pretty much cost us the game, in my opinion. (Midview) scored on all those drives…If we finish off those drives, that’s all we need.”
The Middies finished with 290 yards to the Rangers’ 291, trailed 19-10 in first downs and had to overcome 12 penalties for 84 yards, but got stops from the defense when they needed them. They sacked Masterson (16 completions in 30 attempts for 164 yards) twice. Newton, who caught six passes for 105 yards on offense, intercepted Masterson in the first quarter.
“Our defense stuck in there,” Middies coach D.J. Shaw said. “I think (North Ridgeville) outgained us tonight, but our defense stuck in and made them earn it. They won us the game.”
While neither team was particularly crisp offensively, the Rangers were forced into four turnovers on downs and two punts in 10 possessions, along with Newton’s interceptions and the early safety. Seven times Ridgeville put together drives that lasted seven or more plays, scoring on only two of them. They were also penalized seven times for 60 yards.
“It’s almost a game of missed opportunities,” Durbin said. “Against a good football team you can’t drive and not turn it into points. You can’t do that, and we’ve got to fix that going into week three.”
Grow led all Rangers receivers with four catches and 58 yards, while fellow senior Tyler Richmond had five catches for 47 yards. Surdock finished with 13 completions in 19 attempts for 226 yards and also led the Middies in rushing with 28 yards in eight attempts. Zac Gill hauled in four passes for 101 yards and scored on a 1-yard run in the second.
Defensively, the Rangers forced six punts and largely stuffed the run, holding the Middies to 64 yards.
North Ridgeville will attempt to earn its first victory Friday when it travels to North Olmsted (1-1) for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
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