By Shawn Liverance
Local Sports Journal

RAVENNA – For both North Muskegon and Ravenna, it was win and keep their playoff hopes alive on Friday night.

Both teams came into the West Michigan Conference game at Citizen’s Field with identical 3-3 records, but it was North Muskegon that came away with its playoff hopes still intact as the Norsemen earned a 29-8 win.

North Muskegon scored on its first two possessions and rode a strong defensive effort to improve to 4-3 on the season and 4-2 in  West Michigan Conference. The Norsemen most likely need wins in their next two games against Montague next week and their season finale against Maple City Glen Lake to qualify for the playoffs.

“We needed this win going into next week against Montague,” North Muskegon sophomore running back Logan Waller said. “This giveS us confidence going into that game and we are looking forward to it.”

North Muskegon took control from the opening kickoff to earn its first win over the Bulldogs since 2006.

Four plays into the game, Waller took a handoff from quarterback Adrian Anderson and raced 56 yards for NM’s first score. An Anderson to Nick Duplissis two-point conversion pass gave the Norsemen an 8-0 lead.

Waller set up NM’s second score after intercepting a Ravenna pass at midfield and it took only three plays for the Norsemen to cash in as sophomore Mitch Edick scored on a 41-yard run.

“We knew it was their homecoming and wanted to get an early lead,” Waller said. “I think that really helped us getting the lead right away.”

North Muskegon ended up rushing for more than 100 yards in the first quarter, which was somewhat surprising to North Muskegon coach Mike Belmonte.

“We always want to run the ball,” Belmonte said. “It was our game plan to get on them quick and it was nice to get the lead especially by running the ball as they are a good team against the run.”

Things settled down after North Muskegon’s two quick scores until Ravenna cut the lead to 15-8 on a big play of its own midway through the second quarter.

Ravenna quarterback Todd Brown connected with Nicholas Timlin on a 30-yard scoring strike that renenergized the Bulldogs, but North Muskegon quickly regained the momentum on its next drive.

Starting on its own 36-yard line, the Norsemen used a 27-yard pass from Anderson to Sam Powell and eight running plays, which culminated in Nick Duplissis’ 5-yard touchdown run and a 22-8 lead at halftime for North Muskegon.

“We definitely wanted to run the ball tonight, said Waller, who finished with 88 yards on 10 carries. “We did a good job running and the line did a great job as usual.”

North Muskegon relied on its defense in the second half as it forced punts on Ravenna’s first  four second-half possessions, while adding its final score on Christian Ramirez’s 35-yard run on the second play of the final quarter.

“Defensively, we knew they would come at us with typical Ravenna football,” Belmonte said. “For the most part, we did a very good job shutting them down.”

Forced to throw the ball, the Bulldogs tossed three interceptions, including two by NM’s Jack Gautraud.

“We really got beat up front on both sides of the ball,” Ravenna coach David Smith said. “We knew what they were going to do, but they did a great job.”

The Norsemen also received a good performance from sophomore running back Edick, who rushed for 71 yards on seven carries.

“We were down three guys who were hurt and did not play tonight,” Belmonte said. “Mitch gave us a big lift tonight.”

The Norsemen will look to break an 11-game losing streak to Montague next week and keep their playoff hopes alive.

“We know who is on the schedule,” Belmonte said. “We will try to go up there and give them a game.”

The Bulldogs will try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive next week as well when they travel to Shelby before closing the season against Tri-County.

“I thought we figured some things out last week, but we have had trouble moving the ball all season,” Smith said. “We will not give up. We will do the best we can against Shelby and Tri-County and maybe we can sneak in the playoffs.”

The Bulldogs were led offensively by Joshua Kohanski’s 50 yards rushing and Brown’s 32 yards.

Brown was 4-of-13 passing for 59 yards and Timlin, who also recovered a fumble, caught two passes for 42 yards.