By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

RAVENNA – Maybe it was the old guys from the 1988 state runner-up team who made the difference for Ravenna.

A bunch of former players from that great squad reunited for their 25thanniversary at Citizen’s Field on Friday.

Their presence seemed to inspire the current Bulldogs, who gave up 52 points last week in a season-opening loss to Kent City, only to bounce back in Week 2 with an impressive 34-6 drubbing of Mason County Central in the West Michigan Conference opener for both schools.

The Bulldogs were particularly improved on defense, holding the Spartans to 177 yards on the ground and, more significantly, only 17 yards passing

It was Kent City’s passing attack that proved fatal for Ravenna last week.

Mason County Central actually had more time of possession than the hosts, but the Bulldog defense kept the Spartans out of the end zone for most of the evening. Justin Jones and Christian Meyers led the defensive effort with 14 and 11 tackles, respectively.

“We’re still trying to get guys in the right spots,” said Ravenna coach David Smith. “We’ve got a young team and some things got a bit out of place last week. We’re still trying to figure out where some guys should be playing, defensively and offensively. But it’s coming together.”

Ravenna was also impressive on offense, piling up 251 yards rushing and 71 passing. Senior tailback Josh Kohanski led the way with 145 yards on 18 carries. Fullback Gabe Zimmer grinded out 45 yards on 13 carries while sophomore Dakota Hudson sparked the team with 50 yards on only three carries.

Quarterback Jake Sied was 4-for-7 passing for 71 yards and one touchdown.

It was the second straight week of big offense for the Bulldogs. They scored 33 points in the loss to Kent City before topping that total on Friday. The offensive output is something Smith considers  a pleasant surprise.

“I didn’t think it was going to go this well offensively this soon,” Smith said. “Our guy playing quarterback was our center last year. He’s got a good arm but he’s still learning to play quarterback. We only have one senior on the offensive line but they are starting to click together. We’re building a nice future, but we have some tough games ahead.”

Kohanski had a breakout game after a slow start last week.

“We had to have a couple conversations about him hitting the right hole and making the right cuts,” Smith said of Kohanski. “Josh has that capability. He’s only 140 pounds but he runs hard and he’s going to slam it up in there. When he does too much dancing that’s when I pull him aside. That’s not his game. He’s a tough little runner.”

One thing is certain for Ravenna – they will live or die this year based largely in the performance of five starting underclassmen, including several who fill key skill positions.

The youngsters turned in a brilliant performance Friday.

Freshman wide receiver David Thompson scored the game’s first points with just over five minutes left in the first quarter. He caught an acrobatic, 16-yard, one-handed touchdown pass from Side at the back of the end zone, to cap an 11-play, 78-yard scoring drive.

The scoring play came on fourth-and-11 and put Ravenna up for good.

Hudson extended the Bulldog lead early in the second quarter, taking a pitch from Sied and breaking loose for a 32-yard scoring burst. Sophomore Mason Averill added extra points after the first two scores, giving Ravenna a 14-0 halftime lead.

Kowalski took over early in the third quarter, powering a four-play, 67-yard scoring drive with a 25-yard run for a first down and a 30-yard touchdown burst. The extra point failed, leaving Ravenna with a 20-0 lead.

Mason County Central (1-1) answered on its next possession with a 15-yard touchdown drive covering 75 yards. Running back Josh Reteam capped it off with a one-yard scoring run.

Ravenna sealed the victory with two more scores down the stretch, including a one-yard touchdown run from Zimmer and a 54-yard interception return by Scott Hutson.

Blake Bladzik passed Mason County Central with 16 rushes for 81 yards. Ritsema added 36 yards on 13 carries and had two catches for 14 yards.

Defensive leaders for the Spartans were Sean Wells with 10 tackles, Matt Burbridge with seven and Josh Quinn and Spencer Knizacky with five apiece.