As of late, the Northwood Rangers have been dominating their Lemoyne Road rivals, Lake, in football.
Northwood has won their last seven matchups against the Flyers, defeating the Flyers by a combined score of 262-93 along the way.
That was before new Lake coach Mark Emans came to town, and he’s got a seasoned veteran quarterback in Jared Rettig to back him up.
The Rangers, led by Coach Ken James, now in his 28th year, have been a model of success against Toledo Area Athletic Conference opponents. Since joining the TAAC in 2001, the Rangers have won nine league titles and advanced to the playoffs seven times.
James’ offense revolves around the wishbone attack, a system that features three running backs, two wide receivers and no tight ends. Northwood’s success running the ball and stopping the run on defense has been key to their stellar run during the last 12 years. Despite having lost 19 seniors from one of the best teams in school history, the Rangers were picked to win the TAAC again this season — albeit, narrowly, in close voting over Gibsonburg.
The Rangers’ offense will feature its share of newcomers. Under center will be Mike Vallejo, who is joined by Dylan Napier, Dominik Bermejo and Jake Davenport in the backfield. Devon Dunbar and Jacob Vickers will start at receiver.
|Lake quarterback, Jared Rettig throws out of
the pocket during his sophomore season. (File
photo courtesy of Innovations Portrait Studio)
|Northwood back Jake Davenport eludesa Cardinal
Stritch defender last year. (Press file photo by Don
Despite the youth movement, James said this year's squad has performed well during two-a-days and scrimmages.
“We're young,” he said. “We only have six seniors, so we're playing some younger guys. We've played well in some scrimmages and not so well in others. We've been erratic at times, we've been really physical and we've roughed each other up in practice and stayed healthy and it's productive.”
James thinks highly of the rivalry between the two schools that are separated by just three miles and located on the same road.
“The rivalry is a cool thing. There's usually a great crowd,” he said. “The communities are pretty close together. There are people that graduated from Lake whose kids go to Northwood. It's always a fun atmosphere. It's fun to coach in and it's pretty exciting to play in.”
Lake, meanwhile, has its third coach in as many seasons, but there's reason to believe they may have found the right man to fill the role in Emans, a Luckey native, Eastwood graduate, and former Bowling Green State University standout, who was hired in April.
Emans brings with him a track record of success. He has 27 years, leading Wauseon (1990-2011) and Arcadia (1986-89) before coming to Millbury. Emans went 118-99 at Wauseon, led the Indians to four Northwest Ohio Athletic League titles and their only three playoff appearances in school history. His most crowning achievement came when Wauseon won the Division III state championship in '93.
Under former coach Bob Olwin, Lake ran the spread offense, but Emans prefers a run-oriented attack. This season, Emans will have to mix in his running schemes with a team that is used to throwing the ball. On top of that, the Flyers have junior quarterback Jared Rettig, who already holds the school's career passing record with 4,462 yards and 49 touchdowns after just his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Rettig will look to get the ball out in space to a variety of receivers, namely Todd Walters, Adam Duncan, Nick Walsh and tight end Joel Densic. Joining Rettig in the backfield will be running backs Marcel Bryan and Branden Short.
“We'll run the shotgun and use some wing-T out of it,” Emans said. “I'd be pretty foolish not to use a quarterback like Jared Rettig. We'll use what we have and utilize some of the things I'm familiar with.
“Sometimes we'll have no backs, one back, two backs. Sometimes we'll have the quarterback under center. There are more formations that we want to show. We'll have a lot of things at our disposal to keep defenses honest. We don't want to get one-dimensional.”
Emans is pleased with the progress his new team has made thus far.
“It's been very, very positive,” he said. “The kids have bought into what I've brought to the table. I've got a nice staff and the kids are working extremely hard. I'm excited with the progress of the program from when I started on June 1.”
If you ask James, he certainly believes that Emans turn things around at Lake.
“For them, I think Mark brings credibility because he's had a great career,” James said. “The kids automatically understand that what he tells them is going to work. He's changing systems, which is difficult. Mark is going to try and run the ball more and try to change the mindset of the kids. It's difficult to do, but he's as good as anyone at doing that. If he stays there awhile, Mark is going to make them pretty good.”
Lake quarterback Jared Rettig in the pocket during his sophomore season. (File photo courtesy of Innovations Portrait Studio)
Northwood speedy all-purpose back Dominik Bermejo. (Press file photo by Don Thompson/picasaweb.google.com))
Northwood back Jake Davenport. (Press file photo by Don Thompson/picasaweb.google.com))