KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE Midview High School's wide receiver Edwin Ralat (8) carries the ball as North Ridgeville High School's defense back Jeremy Sanchez (3) goes in for the tackle on Friday night, August 31.
NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The first defense to step up and make a play was destined to come out victorious when North Ridgeville hosted Midview on Friday night.
Both teams scored at will in the first half, combining for 35 points in a second-quarter shootout.
The difference came late in the fourth quarter as the Rangers came up with a huge defensive play to set up the winning field goal and a 31-30 victory in an instant classic.
North Ridgeville scored 10 unanswered points in the final five minutes to win the Southwestern Conference opener.
“We really responded well to some adversity throughout the game,” North Ridgeville coach Luke Durbin said. “A win like this is huge and good things start to happen when you win football games.”
Trailing 30-21 with just under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Rangers found themselves facing a third-and-long during a must-score possession.
Quarterback Matt Steinmetz dropped back and placed a perfectly thrown ball into star receiver Jeremy Sanchez’s hands and the speedster did the rest.
Sanchez took the ball 53 yards for a crucial touchdown to trim the deficit to 30-28.
“We started the second half slow but got going later in the fourth,” Steinmetz said. “We knew it wasn’t over and we never stopped fighting.”
Even with the big score, North Ridgeville’s defense needed to do something it hadn’t done all game — come up with a quick stop.
That changed on Midview’s second play, as the Rangers broke through the line and forced a fumble in the backfield. Senior John McCall came up with the recovery, setting up North Ridgeville at Midview’s 32-yard line with four minutes to play.
“We had some trouble stopping their drives at times but came up with a huge play when we needed it,” Durbin said.
The Rangers offense then proceeded to burn over two minutes off the clock and set up sophomore kicker Aden Vanover for a 32-yard field goal attempt to take the lead.
Vanover had missed an attempt earlier in the game and was looking for his first career field goal. He got it this time, splitting the uprights to give North Ridgeville a 31-30 lead while sending a packed stadium into a frenzy.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little stressed because I wanted to come through for my teammates,” Vanover said. “They kept faith in me and I was able to get it done.”
Midview drove into field goal range on its final possession, giving Christian Roig, who had already converted three field goals, a chance to win it.
A botched snap resulted in a sack, however, and North Ridgeville walked away with a victory that could change the trajectory of its season.
“It was a tough way to lose but I am proud of my kids,” Midview coach D.J. Shaw said. “They played with maximum effort, we just didn’t make the plays needed to win the game.”
There were non-stop fireworks in the first half, mainly in the second quarter. The teams traded touchdowns and neither team punted or even faced a fourth down in the quarter.
Steinmetz ran for a touchdown and hooked up with Sanchez for a 43-yard score, and Midview quarterback Andrew Gooch threw two touchdowns.
Steinmetz also threw a touchdown pass to Mikey Richmond as North Ridgeville closed the half with a 21-20 lead.
“My teammates did a heck of a job making plays for me all game and I am very proud of that,” Steinmetz said. “I took some shots and was able to hit on them.”
Gooch, who threw for 359 yards, had touchdown passes of 52 and 73 in the wild second quarter.
Steinmetz finished with a rushing score to go along with his three touchdowns through the air, while Sanchez scored twice and caught five passes for 167 yards.
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North Ridgeville 31, Midview 30
Midview 3 17 3 7 — 30
North Ridgeville 0 21 0 10 — 31
M -- Christian Roig, 22 field goal
NR -- Matt Steinmetz, 4 run (Aden Vanover kick)
M -- Isiah Johnson, 76 pass from Andrew Gooch (Roig kick)
NR -- Jeremy Sanchez, 43 pass from Steinmetz (Vanover kick)
M -- Edwin Ralat, 52 pass from Gooch (Roig kick)
NR -- Mikey Richmond, 33 pass from Steinmetz (Vanover kick)
M -- Roig, 28 field goal
M -- Roig, 27 field goal
M -- Ralat, 27 pass from Seth Sanders (Roig kick)
NR -- Sanchez, 53 pass from Steinmetz (Vanover kick)
NR -- Vanover, 32 field goal
First downs 23 24
— by rushing 10 12
— by passing 8 8
—by penalty 5 4
Yards rushing 74 227
Yards passing 386 261
Total offense 460 488
Passes att./comp. 22/39 12/21
Intercepted by 0 0
Fumbles/lost 1/1 2/1
RUSHING — (M) Cruz 10-27, Gooch 4-26, Nelson 6-21; (NR) Dunstan 6-40 , Swindig 13-85, Steinmetz 8-9, Riley 14-93.
PASSING — (M) Gooch 21-37-359-2-0, Sanders 1-1-27-1-0; (NR) Steinmetz 12-18-261-3-0.
RECEIVING — (M) Gill 6-53, Ralat 5-121, Johnson 4-129, Bashak 1-11, Bibby 1-14, Sanders 2-40, Cruz 1-9, Troutman 1-9; (NR) Sanchez 5-167, Riley 1-1 , Richmond 2-70, McLean 2-14, Swindig 2-9.