Your neighborhood high school sports source! - News: Kurcsak, Novak rally Eagles past North Ridgeville
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Kurcsak, Novak rally Eagles past North Ridgeville
Kurcsak, Novak rally Eagles past North RidgevilleStory by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet

Two games into the 2013 high school football season, everyone was talking about North Ridgeville's sophomore running sensation, Demario McCall. His six touchdowns in a win at Parma in Week Two created much of the well-deserved attention.

But on a fall-like Friday night in North Ridgeville, the visiting North Olmsted Eagles showed that two backs can be better than one.

The Eagles, trailing 28-21 in the fourth quarter, rallied behind running back Ben Kurcsak and quarterback Brad Novak for a 35-27 win. Both Eagles ran for over 100 yards and scored fourth-quarter touchdowns that kept their team unbeaten on the season at 3-0.

"They're two excellent kids," beamed Eagles first-year head coach Tim Brediger after the game. "Brad's a 3-year starter for us and our captain, and Bennie is a quiet workhorse. So far this year, those two guys are carrying us.

"I don't know what they had tonight, but every game so far they've had 100 yards or more. When you have two backs getting over 100 yards a game, that makes you pretty hard to defend," he said.

Kurcsak, a 5-10 185 junior, carried the ball 27 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns. His second was a 5-yarder off left tackle with 3:31 left in the game that put North Olmsted in the lead for good.

Novak, a senior, was busy as well, running the ball 22 times for 136 yards and a touchdown. That came with 9:02 left in the game on a 4-yard run off right tackle, and tied the game after senior Ben Lyons booted the conversion kick.

"You've got to give credit to our line and our coaches for putting us in the right position," Novak said. "Our lines opened up the holes tonight. The pass protection was good. If I didn't see anything I liked, I stepped up and took off with it.

"We got great blocking down field too. It was a team effort," he added.

McCall was having a big night as well, carrying the ball eight times for 56 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half alone. His touchdown runs of 14 and 8 yards kept the game close, but an ankle injury in the third quarter kept him on the sidelines the rest of the game.

Still, the Rangers were not about to wilt away. Senior quarterback Jason Lucas finished off a seven-play, 65-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 21-21 just 2:37 into the second half.

On North Ridgeville's second drive, Lucas had one touchdown run called back due to a holding call. But three plays and another holding call later, Lucas sped up the middle for a 20-yard score that gave the Rangers their 28-21 lead.

"Our kids fought hard tonight," Brediger said. "Obviously, North Ridgeville has some talented athletes.

"Their quarterback is exceptional. He threw the ball well on play action and he ran the ball well. Their offensive line is one of the biggest that we'll see, and obviously they have the tailback.

"Our kids fought. Our big message was that it was going to be a four-quarter game, and that we needed to keep fighting the entire time. We had penalties and turnovers...a lot of adversity, and that's one of the things we talked about during the preseason.

"Our motto is to persist through everything, and tonight was an example of that. Our kids fought through everything that could possibly happen," he added.

And persist they did.

The third quarter ended with the Eagles coughing up the ball on a fumble on the Ranger 29-yard line. But after three plays and yet another holding call on the home team, junior Matt Starcovic picked off a Lucas pass and returned it to the Ranger 30. North Ridgeville was flagged for a personal foul after the play, giving the visitors the ball at the 15.

Two plays later, Novak took it in to tie the game at 28-28. The Eagles' defense held North Ridgeville to a three-and-out, and the offense took over again at its own 26.

On the third play, Novak ran left, cut up the sidelines, then cut back right to the Ranger 20. An illegal block brought the ball back to the Ranger 43, but a facemask call and a personal foul on the Rangers had North Olmsted in business at the 8-yard line.

The Eagles dodged a bullet when they recovered their own fumble at the 5-yard line on second down and three. But Kurcsak secured the ball on the next handoff and bulled in up the gut for the go-ahead score.

McCall never returned, finishing the night with 86 yards on 16 carries with the two touchdowns. Lucas carried the ball 13 times for 91 yards and completed eight of 14 passes for 98 yards with two interceptions.

"Our play all week was to contain him," Brediger said of McCall. "It worked, but he still had some yards and some nice plays. Our goal was to bottle him up and keep him between the tackles. When he got to the outside on us, we got in trouble the first half a little bit.

"For the most part, we tackled well. There are a couple plays here and there we've got to clean up, but compared to the first two weeks, this was our best defensive effort. I know they scored a lot of points, but as far as us being physical and getting after it, this was our best effort," he said.

"I have to give credit where credit is due," said Rangers head coach Jeff Riesen, whose team dropped its first game of the season.

"I think North Olmsted played a terrific game. From the beginning of the game, I'm happy with the way our kids came back. It was 21-14 at halftime, and we were able to come back and take the lead.

"I like the resiliency of our kids, but I've said for years that football games are won in the trenches. I think North Olmsted definitely had the edge tonight in the trenches. Their offensive line moved our defensive line, and they were gashing us for yardage.

"Then on defense, they didn't stop us, but they held us in check better than anybody we've played up to this point. Demario got hurt in the second half, and that didn't help. It's an ankle, but hopefully it's just a sprain and he'll be back," he added.

North Ridgeville continues non-conference play next Friday when it hosts Avon Lake, a 19-7 winner over North Canton Hoover. North Olmsted will now prepare for next Friday night's Southwestern Conference opener at Westlake, which defeated Youngstown East 34-12.

"Our kids set some team goals at our overnight camp in July," Brediger said. "Our first goal was to go 3-0 before getting into the SWC season. We knew it wasn't going to be easy, because every team is good.

"We have five more goals on the list, but that's our first one. It was our main focus," he added.

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