By Nate Thompson

ALLENDALE – Kent City junior running back Gio Weeks received some sound advice from his dad prior to the Eagles’ season-opening contest against Ravenna on Saturday

“My dad just told me that this year, there’s got to be three guys (needed) to take you down, at least three,” Weeks said.

So when Weeks darted toward a Ravenna defensive back with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter of a 28-20 game, he told himself that one player wasn’t going to bring him to the turf.

Sure enough, Weeks shook free of the arm tackle, then cut across the field to his right on an electrifying 51-yard touchdown run. That sealed Kent City’s impressive 41-20 victory over the Bulldogs in the West Michigan Sports Commission’s Gridiron Classic at Lubbers Stadium at Grand Valley State University.

Kent City’s No. 6 Gio Weeks fights off the Ravenna defense for extra yards. Photo/Marc Hoeksema

Weeks, who finished with 157 yards rushing on 13 carries and three touchdowns, said the opening victory was gratifying, considering the Eagles lost twice to the Bulldogs last season, with the second loss coming in the Division 8 playoffs.

“Our first goal was revenge at Lubbers,” he said. “As a team, this is our first step toward a good season.”

Kent City started the game with many good steps, grabbing a 14-0 lead on the Bulldogs after one quarter.

The Eagles’ defense stopped the Bulldogs short on a fourth-down run on their opening possession and then scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 31-yard run by Weeks off right tackle.

A perfectly-timed blitz by Eagles’ linebacker Jace Dailey caused a Ravenna fumble on the Bulldogs’ next series, and Kent City turned the miscue into an eight-play scoring drive, capped by a four-yard touchdown by senior Cody Bowers.

Ravenna fought back in the second quarter, running behind its mammoth offensive line to produce two touchdowns – an 8-yard score by Gary Johnson, and an 11-yard quick hitter to fullback Zach McCleary.

Camron Passenier on the Ravenna run with No. 9 Brandon Millis leading. Photo/Marc Hoeksema

Kent City took momentum into halftime, however, when junior Evan Jones turned a delayed hand-off into a 24-yard touchdown with just six seconds left on the clock. Jones slipped past the Bulldogs’ line and found a huge gap of green turf to his left and scampered into the end zone.

“This team has a lot of running backs that can break big plays at any time,” said Kent City head coach Bill Crane. “It makes it very difficult for defenses to focus on one player.”

Ravenna fought back again in the third. Its eight-play drive near the end of the quarter produced a five-yard touchdown run by senior Brandon Millis. The extra point failed, however, keeping the Eagles on top 21-20.

It was the Eagles’ big-play ability that turned the game in their favor in the fourth quarter.

On a fourth-and-eight play from the 33, quarterback John Meek completed a 31-yard pass to Weeks, despite taking a shot to the chest as he released the ball. Kent City cashed in on the next play when fullback Luke Chipman scored to give the Eagles a 28-20 cushion.

A costly Ravenna fumble gave the ball right back to Kent City with 8:43 left, and Weeks scored his 51-yard touchdown to put his team in command.  He added to his tremendous day with a 45-yard score with under two minutes remaining for the game’s final points.

Kent City finished with 243 yards on the ground, compared to 178 from Ravenna. Gary Johnson led the Bulldogs with 77 yards on 15 carries in his first varsity start at running back.

Defensively, Jared Broton had an interception for Ravenna, while Chipman had a key fourth-quarter forced fumble for Kent City.