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Published: Thursday, 10/4/2012

Northwood's rambling Rangers are 6-0, have steamrolled opponents

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Stephen Fuller is part of an offensive attack that uses many runners. He has 242 yards rushing this year. Stephen Fuller is part of an offensive attack that uses many runners. He has 242 yards rushing this year.
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Northwood whisked through the first half of the regular season like a steamroller on the loose.

The Rangers have been unstoppable.

Northwood (6-0) has outscored its opponents 306-64. That's an average outcome of 51-11.

"Right now, we're playing as well as we thought we maybe should've been playing earlier in the year," Northwood coach Ken James said. "I think we may be a little bit late getting to where we thought we should be, but we've been playing really well that last few weeks."

The Rangers are coming off a 54-7 triumph over Hilltop and won 56-6 against Gibsonburg the week before, and they had a 70-26 rout of Lake in the second week.

Predicted to finish at the top of the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, Northwood approaches each game with an appropriate perspective.

"We're still practicing hard, and we're still preparing well, and that's important, too," said James, in his 27th season as coach. "That's a sign of a mature team, which is what we are.

"We've got 18 seniors, so we should perform that way."

Northwood is tied for first place with Ottawa Hills and Toledo Christian, all with 3-0 TAAC records. The Rangers have won seven titles since joining the conference in 2001.

Nick Russell has completed 35 of 55 passes for 708 yards and seven touchdowns. The senior quarterback has rushed for 403 yards. Nick Russell has completed 35 of 55 passes for 708 yards and seven touchdowns. The senior quarterback has rushed for 403 yards.
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Quarterback Nick Russell, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior, has been steady in his role of the Rangers' versatile wishbone attack.

He has completed 35 of 55 pass attempts for 708 yards, and 10 for touchdowns, while gaining a team-leading 403 yards rushing on 51 carries.

James believes Russell, who is in his second season as a starter, has grown into the role.

"Last year it was really hard to see a defense and make sure you get in the right plays," Russell said. "This year it's coming real natural to me now because I've been in the program for a while, so I'm learning a lot."

Last season Russell had 1,227 passing yards and 702 rushing to help the Rangers post a 9-1 regular season record and win the TAAC title.

"Nick Russell has done a really nice job of getting us in the right plays," James said. "When teams do stack the box he's done a good job of hitting guys down field, so we're making teams pay for that when they do. That's crucial because we run the ball a bunch."

The Rangers' offensive firepower has been an overwhelming ground attack that has made it difficult for defenses to deal with.

Anthony Prothero (38 carries for 290 yards), Stephen Fuller (21 for 242), Jordan Schell (24 for 189), and Dominik Bermejo (28 for 203) make up a rambling Rangers running game that dictates the tempo of contests.

Jake Davenport, a junior, leads the Rangers with 16 receptions and is tied for the team lead with nine touchdowns. Jake Davenport, a junior, leads the Rangers with 16 receptions and is tied for the team lead with nine touchdowns.
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Jake Davenport, a junior, and Bermejo, a sophomore, have each scored a team-leading nine touchdowns.

Five Rangers have scored at least four touchdowns, including Fuller and Schell, who have scored five TDs apiece, and Russell with four.

"I think we've got good leadership on this team and we've got a good offensive line," said Prothero, a 5-7, 170-pound junior.

Linemen Justin Rohrs (6-foot-2, 256 pounds), David Bogart (6-3, 227), John Segura (6-2, 240), Travis Whitmore (5-11, 249), and Mike Tonti (6-0, 221) have been the forces up front in the running game.

The interior linemen on offense have also been contributors on the defensive line.

Northwood is off to a 6-0 start led by, from left, Dominik Bermejo, Jake Davenport, Nick Russell, Stephen Fuller, and Jordan Schell. Northwood is off to a 6-0 start led by, from left, Dominik Bermejo, Jake Davenport, Nick Russell, Stephen Fuller, and Jordan Schell.
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Segura said there's plenty of confidence and trust among the linemen.

"As a group on the offensive line we pretty much know what we're going to be doing," Segura said. "We've been playing together for a while, so we know each other pretty well.

"Everybody is really each other's best friend, so that makes it more fun to play alongside each other."

Russell credits his blockers for what he's been able to do working behind center. When he isn't attempting to gain yards tucking the football and running behind his blockers, he's worked the passing lanes.

Davenport has been his primary target, pulling in a team-high 16 passes for 285 yards. Bermejo has caught six passes for 202 yards.

"They've had huge holes for our running backs and the pass protection has been really good this year," Russell said. "I've been really safe back their and I've felt really comfortable throwing the ball, all because of the offensive line."

The Rangers play Danbury (2-4, 1-2) on Friday and are pushing toward a second straight TAAC title.

"Our guys are focused on this week," James said. "We've got some tough ones down the road. Toledo Christian is going to be a big game for us. They called us out earlier in the year and said they were going to win the league, so that will help our focus that week."

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade



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