By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
The Riverside Beavers are getting healthier, and they are getting better. On Friday, it showed in the form of a 55-21 triumph over visiting North.
As lopsided as the score was, the game wasn’t actually as close as it indicates. The Beavers completely dominated until late in the game when backups were in on both sides.
“We’re getting a little healthier; that’s a key,” Riverside coach Dave Bors said. “We really haven’t been healthy yet this season. We’re still not 100 percent healthy; we’ve still got guys dinged up. But we’re finally getting in a little bit of rhythm. This is our third-straight win now, so the guys are getting confidence.”
Riverside (3-2, 2-0 in the Premier Athletic Conference), which has now won its last three games, scored touchdowns the first seven times it had the ball, remarkably needing only three plays or less and less than one minute on each of those occasions.
The runners ran and the blockers blocked. Maxx Brubaker, who was named the Homecoming king prior to the contest, returned to action after missing the prior 3 1⁄2 games with a shoulder injury and completed seven of his 10 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns.
The Beavers outgained the Rangers (0-5, 0-2) 320 total yards to 85 in the first half. On offense, they not only dominated, but often had North looking confused and disoriented. Drew Tornow scored their first two touchdowns, the first on a 44-yard catch from Brubaker with no defender seemingly in the same zip code. He followed that up with a 24-yard grab of a Brubaker toss in the end zone.
Marcus Jones added the next three touchdowns on runs of 3, 61 and 1 yard, with the third one coming two plays after Riverside recovered a fumble on the Ranger 4. Pat Remington (4 catches, 114 yards) added a 2-yard scoring run and then caught a 14-yard scoring pass to stretch it to 48-0. His second touchdown came after a teammate recovered a fumble at the North 21.
“(Jones) came to play,” Bors said. “When Marcus comes to play, which he’s doing a very good job at — he’s still a junior, he’s still an underclassman — he’s got some special gifts. He’s very blessed.”
Nick Fitzgerald, who guided the Riverside offense in Brubaker’s absence, led it on an 80-yard drive which he capped with his own two-yard run, completing his team’s scoring with just more than two minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Bors pointed to the win against Harvey in Week 3, in which the Beavers scored all 42 of their points in the second half, and last week’s 44-26 victory over Lakeside, in which they trailed 20-7 in the third quarter.
“We knew we could do this, and that was with Fitzgerald at quarterback,” he said. “Now we’ve got Brubaker back, and he’s hungry.”
The Riverside defense, which didn’t let the Rangers any closer than its 33 in the first half, stopped them on downs twice at the Beaver 20 before North finally got into the scoring column. The Rangers put all their points on the board within the game’s final six minutes, first with A.J. Rosciszewski running it in from 26 yards out, then Ryan Elias taking the ball out of the hands of a ballcarrier and dashing 35 yards to paydirt, and finally with backup quarterback Josh Kozel breaking a 57-yard run.
Anton Vrebac, a talented quarterback and wideout, was limited to punting and kicking duties because of an injury. With Zane Bunnell at the helm, North passed only three times.
The Rangers finished with a very respectable total of 298 rushing yards, but 151 came in the fourth quarter. Mike Ranallo, who rushed 12 times overall, did run for 66 of his 103 yards before the break.
“I was proud of our defense,” Bors said. “They came out in a couple new sets that we hadn’t seen before, and they were obviously trying to run the ball and ground it out a little bit. So I was proud of our guys the way we adjusted. We were able to pretty much shut them down.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.