By Dave Hart

WHITEHALL – For the past few seasons the West Michigan Conference football race has belonged to Montague and Oakridge.

This year the Ravenna Bulldogs want in on the fun, and they played like true contenders on Friday.

Quarterback Conner Kilbourne threw for 270 yards and four touchdowns while receiver Calvin Schullo had 146 yards and three scores to lead the Bulldogs to a lopsided 41-13 win over Whitehall on the Vikings’ home field.

The Bulldogs are now 3-1 on the season and 3-0 in conference play. They will look to stay unbeaten in the league next Friday when they host Mason County Central.

“They are a good football team that is banged up just like we are,” Ravenna coach Doug Samuels said about Whitehall. “It came down to a handful of explosive plays and our defense stepped it up.”

Ravenna’s No. 23 Tristan Witt takes a handoff from QB Conner Kilbourne. Photo/Kris Rake

The Bulldogs were without senior All-State wide receiver Josh Cox, while Whitehall played without quarterback Andrew Durbin and defensive back Kyler Honore.

Kilbourne, who was 19-for-23 passing, and Schullo, who caught seven passes, stepped it up for Ravenna offensively, making key plays down the stretch.

“We have had a good connection since sophomore year,” said Schullo about working with Kilbourne. “This connection has been getting stronger and stronger.”

Kilbourne showed trust in his receivers throughout the game, repeatedly airing the ball out for first downs and touchdowns.

“I trust my receivers even if it is a bad throw or a good one,” said Kilbourne. “We are having a lot of fun and we are hoping to have some more fun.”

The Vikings scored on their first possession with a 13-yard touchdown run by Kayleb Venema with 6:16 left in the first quarter, taking a 7-0 lead. They drove the ball 62 yards on nine plays.

Ravenna responded on its next possession, scoring on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Kilbourne to Jack Emery with 25 seconds left in the first quarter.

Emery scored the two-point conversion to give Ravenna an 8-7 advantage headed into the second quarter.

The Vikings stalled on their next drive, which resulted in a turnovers on downs at midfield. That occurred after they attempted a fake punt that fell just a half-yard short of a first down.

Whitehall’s No. 2 DJ Wright rushes up field. Photo/Kris Rake

The Bulldogs took advantage of the shorter field, scoring on a four-yard run by Grant Parker with 7:44 remaining in the second quarter. Ravenna failed on the two-point try, but still led 14-7.

Whitehall had two chances to cut its deficit during the second quarter, but was forced to punt with 3:46 left before halftime, then missed a 39-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds left.

The Vikings opened the second half with a 93-yard kickoff return touchdown by Kris Dowdell, then missed the extra point, leaving the Bulldogs clinging to a 14-13 lead.

Ravenna then hit the accelerator, scoring the final 27 points of the contest.

The key play that started the route was a 66-yard touchdown pass from Kilbourne to Schullo with 10:32 left in third quarter, giving the Bulldogs a 20-13 lead.

Ravenna maintained that advantage throughout the third quarter, before scoring on the second play of the fourth quarter on a 10-yard touchdown run by Parker. A successful two-point conversion increased the Bulldogs’ lead to 28-13.

The Bulldogs got the ball back on the next possession with an interception by Dom Mabrito at the 11-yard line. They scored on their next play with an 11-yard connection from Kilbourne to Schullo to take a 34-13 lead.

Ravenna closed out the scoring with 6:10 remaining in the game with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Kilbourne to Schullo.

“We are now in playoff mode,” said Whitehall coach Tony Sigmon, whose team needs to win its final five games to have a lock for a postseason berth. “It’s pretty straightforward and that is what the reality is. If our kids want to be a playoff football team they have to win out.”

The Vikings, who are now 1-3 on the season and 1-2 in league play, will travel to Shelby next week.