The Press Newspaper
Respective league powers clash on Friday, Sept. 25 when Genoa, the two-time defending Suburban Lakes League champion, travels to Northwood.
Coach Ken James' Rangers have won back-to-back Toledo Area Athletic Conference championships and are the preseason pick to win a third straight title. Northwood, however, is off to a rocky start with a young team.
The Rangers (1-2), who start just five seniors, hosted Edon (0-3) this week.
"Edon is young, like us," James said. "They're trying to find themselves."
The Rangers opened the season with a 26-0 loss at Lakota, then beat Lake 32-20 before suffering a 41-22 loss at Hopewell-Loudon last week.
"We're hitting people, we're just not fundamentally where we need to be yet," James said. "We're competing, even in the preseason. If something bad happens, we don't let it bother us. Against Lake we were down 20-12 ... We just have to get better fundamentally in all areas.
"We feel like we're getting better every week and taking small steps. We're a work in progress right now. Before all is said and done, we're going to be pretty good. We just don't know how soon that's going to happen."
Turnovers were a problem in Northwood's first three games, including four against Lake. The Rangers also had three different players lose fumbles against Lakota.
"We've got some work to do," James said. "We're a young team and getting better every week. Fundamentally, we just have to get better."
The Rangers have not faced Genoa since the two schools were both members of the SLL. Northwood jumped to the TAAC for the start of the 2000 season.
"We haven't played Genoa in eight or nine years, but we scrimmage them every year," James said. "We've had a tri-scrimmage with them and Waite for the past five or six years. We played them up until 2000 and we haven't beaten them very often, maybe two or three times in the years we played them. They were a handful for us."
Through three games, the Rangers' top rusher is senior Zach Bermejo, who has 170 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Junior Corey Jones has 31 carries for 135 yards and four TDs, and junior quarterback Eric Russell has rushed for 104 yards on 15 carries.
John Romstadt has six catches for 85 yards, and fellow junior Jake Pressley has three catches for 33 yards.
"Eric Russell is healthy now," James said. "He played pretty well last week when he was 5-of-10 passing and rushed for 70-some yards. He managed the offense pretty well. He injured his ankle and his hip the first week against Lakota. Nick played the whole game against Lake, and Eric came back and played against Hopewell."
Northwood's top tackler is junior linebacker Mike Prothero, with 34 stops. Pressley has two interceptions at strong safety.
Genoa, the preseason pick to win the SLL title, has yet to be challenged this year. The Comets (3-0), who hosted Woodmore (0-3) this week, have beaten Rossford (60-0), Oak Harbor (51-0) and Port Clinton (62-7) by a combined score of 173-7.
Vicars coached against Northwood a handful of times when he was the coach at Delta.
"They're coached very well," Vicars said. "You don't really expect a lot of surprises. They have a good program and they do what they do and try to execute it well. They're very physical and they play hard-nosed football."
Genoa's offensive line has paved the way for the Comets to amass 850 yards in three games, with an average of 8.5 yards per rushing attempt.
The line consists of senior center Kody Vincent, junior guards Casey Wojciechowski, Andrew Hayes and Brad Szypka, senior tackle Jake Schreuder, junior tackle Luke Sutter and senior tight ends Jon Lester and Richard Wonnell.
"The've worked well as a cohesive unit," Vicars said. "They communicate well and they adjust on the fly by themselves well. We have some smart kids up there."
Genoa's top rusher is senior Greg Hillabrand, who has 18 carries for a 245 yards and five touchdowns.
"He's kind of the tough guy," Vicars said. "He runs inside, plays linebacker and is a good team leader for us. He keeps the team loose, and our personality kind of goes as he goes."
Senior Connor Wendt has run the ball eight times for 172 yards and three touchdowns, and he's also caught five passes for 244 yards (48.8 average) and four TDs.
"He's been a total player for us," Vicars said. "Not only has he been a good rusher, he's been a good receiver, a good defensive back and an outstanding kick returner. When you have those type of kids who are three-year starters, you count on them to do good things, and he hasn't disappointed us."
Senior quarterback Matt Bassitt has completed 18-of-30 passes for 483 yards and seven touchdowns, with no interceptions. Junior split end Derek Allgier has 10 catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, 36 Comets have made at least one tackle, led by junior linebacker Chris Cuevas with 11 tackles. Genoa has no turnovers and eight takeaways.
"We have some experience back on defense," Vicars said. "We're not very big, but we run to the ball well. We gang tackle and swarm and utilize our quickness."
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