MILLBURY -- A wild tone was established instantly last night when the first two kickoffs were returned for touchdowns in a rivalry game that then saw Northwood romp to a decisive victory over Lake.
The schools are located less than six miles apart, and "the Battle of Lemoyne Road" attracted a crowd of nearly 2,000, but the Rangers rolled to a seventh straight win in the series on the road.
Northwood racked up 10 touchdowns and 581 total yards en route to a convincing 70-26 triumph.
Senior quarterback Nick Russell accounted for 361 yards and five touchdowns. Russell scored on runs of 80 and 3 yards and finished with 185 yards on the ground. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 176 yards, including TD strikes of 27, 24, and 64 yards.
"We tried to pound them and pound them and then try to hit the big play," Russell said. "It worked tonight. Everyone was on the right page, and it showed on the scoreboard. This is a very big [rivalry]."
Northwood junior running back Anthony Prothero rushed for 101 yards on 13 carries. He scored on runs of 1 and 39 yards. Five of the Rangers' scores came on plays of 24 yards or more.
"Our plan was to try to possess the ball and get yards in four and five-yard chunks," Northwood coach Ken James said. "That didn't work out because we kept [hitting big plays]. We wanted to keep coming after them and stay focused."
The teams combined for 66 points and 662 yards in the first half alone and Northwood emerged with a 40-26 lead.
Lake freshman Adam Duncan took the opening kickoff back 86 yards for a score to take a 6-0 lead. The extra point failed.
Unbelievably, Northwood countered with a kickoff return for TD of its own as junior Jacob Davenport went 77 yards. The Rangers led 7-6 just 26 seconds into game.
"I've never seen two kick returns for TDs at the beginning of the game," James said. "That was kind of indicative of the way the game was going to be."
The teams exchanged scores early, and Northwood led just 32-26 late in the first half. Northwood then went up 40-26 on a one-yard run by Prothero with four seconds left in the second quarter.
Northwood increased its lead to 48-26 on a 39-yard TD run by Prothero late in the third.
"We got tired, and we lacked fundamentals then, and they took advantage of it," Lake coach Bob Olwin said. "There were some arm tackles. They were pretty strong, and we need to get stronger."
Russell scored his second rushing TD (three yards) to give the Rangers a 56-26 lead with 58 seconds left in the third.
"No lead ever feels comfortable to me," James said. "The way they throw the ball, they can score in two seconds. I don't like to score that many late."
The Rangers scored on the first play of their second possession as Russell scored on an 80-yard run. Lake responded with a 46-yard pass play from Jared Rettig to Ben Swartz.
Russell hooked up with Stephen Fuller for a 27-yard TD for a 20-12 lead before Lake tied it at 20 on a 15-yard pass from Rettig to Adam Duncan.
Northwood regained a six-point lead as Russell connected with Jordan Schell on a 24-yard strike for a 26-20 edge early in the second quarter.
The Rangers seized a 32-20 lead on a 64-yard TD pass from Russell to Dominik Bermejo.
"We felt like if we could keep the ball, we could wear them down and bust some plays," James said. "Our quarterback is good. Nick did a good job of getting us in the right play."
But the Flyers made it 32-26 on an 11-yard pass from Rettig to Connor Bowen late in the first half. Rettig finished with 219 yards passing and three TDs.
"We had an opportunity early, but it was a small window, and it closed quickly," Olwin said. "They do a good job with the option. We had to be disciplined."
Russell had 166 rushing and 176 passing yards along with four scores in the first half.
"We wanted to make sure we had the score up high enough so that it was safe," Russell said.
Northwood has now outscored Lake 120-28 over the last three games.
"We had an extra bounce in our step," James said. "It was a big crowd. It's a rivalry game. It was a great atmosphere."
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.