By Andrew Johnson

KENT CITY – The Kent City football team knew there would be questions coming into the season, after losing its star-studded backfield to graduation.

Those questions got a little larger on Friday night after a 34-16 loss to Morley-Stanwood, dropping Kent City’s record to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in CSAA Silver Division play.

It was the first conference loss for Kent City since the 2016 season, when two former standouts, running back Gio Weeks and quarterback John Meeks, were sophomores.

“We have to fight,” said Kent City head coach Bill Crane after the loss. “We have to come back Monday and decide how we want to finish our season. We have a lot of ball left, but this one is going to hurt because it’s a huge game in our conference.”

Morley-Stanwood threw the first punch on Friday.

Kent City’s Brendan Boyd makes the catch in the end zone to convert a two-point conversion. Photo/Jason Goorman

On the first possession, Jack Doyle picked off an Eli Carlson pass and ran the ball back 40-yards for a touchdown, and the two-point conversion gave the Mohawks an 8-0 lead.

On the ensuing kick, the ball was squibbed down the field and bounced off multiple Kent City hands before being recovered by Morley- Stanwood.

The Mohawks then marched 40 yards over nine plays, and scored on a one-yard touchdown run by Jason Bialik, giving the visitors a 14-0 lead.

The Eagles managed to punch back when Carlson found Brendan Boyd for a six-yard touchdown pass, cutting the deficit to 14-8 with 3.5 seconds left in the first quarter.

On the next Mohawk drive, the Eagles forced a fumble and Kyler Larson recovered.

Kent City took a 16-14 lead when Max Hudson broke loose on a 12-yard touchdown run with 6:16 left in the first half.

The last score of the first half came with less than a second remaining on the clock when Mohawk quarterback Ryland Nelson connected with Carter Veldkamp on a 25-yard touchdown pass.

Eli Carlson rolls out while No. 71 Jesus Hernandez blocks for Kent City. Photo/Jason Goorman

Morley-Stanwood led 20-16 at halftime.

“That one was huge,” said Crane about the demoralizing last play of the first half. “We just didn’t make the play. We had an opportunity and that seemed to be a trend tonight. We didn’t take advantage of opportunities.”

The second half was all Morley-Stanwood, which scored on a 72-yard fumble return by Bialik in the third quarter and a six-yard TD run by Veldkamp in the fourth.

Bialik led Morley-Stanwood with 95 yards on 13 carries. Kent City was paced by Hudson with 87 yards on 22 carries.

“We’ve been talking all year about how this is a test,” Crane said. “The test we’ve been talking about is a lot of the negative comments about all the talent we lost, and if we’re going to be any good.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good ball club, and I know it wears on the guys, but we got good kids and we’re going to keep fighting.”