By Nate Thompson
Everywhere Price or one of the Crusaders’ offensive playmakers ran, a pack of Dogs followed in heavy pursuit.
Ravenna’s ramped-up defense limited a Muskegon Catholic squad that entered Friday’s contest averaging around 31 points per game to just 123 yards of offense in a 14-0 victory at MCC’s Kehren Stadium in a Division 6 pre-district game on Friday.
Ravenna, which improves to 8-2 this season, advances to next week’s district championship game against a familiar foe, West Michigan Conference rival Montague, which easily defeated Newaygo on Friday.
The Bulldogs edged the Wildcats in a thriller in Week 6, 17-7.
Ravenna senior defensive tackle Nick Ely said it was critical to disrupt the Crusaders’ Price, who has shown an ability to make plays with both his arm and legs this season.
“It’s just crazy to come in here and get a shutout,” the 5-foot-9, 215-pounder said. “It’s always key (to get pressure on the QB). I believe our front three is the best in the state. We couldn’t do it without our front three. Without me getting pressure up the middle and my tackles following, we need all three to be a team and to make it happen. It all works.”
Ravenna Coach Doug Samuels raved about his defensive unit.
“Our defense has been the story of the season,” Samuels said. “(Defensive coordinator) Tommy Moore and our other coaches have done such a great job. And Catholic is so tough because they give you so many formations and different plays, so it’s tough to prepare for.
“I didn’t expect a shutout,” he added. “But to get one here, it’s just a cherry on top.”
Ravenna’s offense sputtered in the cold and windy conditions. The Bulldogs were able to move the ball consistently throughout the first half, but held just a 7-0 halftime lead. Ravenna was hindered by a pair of first-half fumbles and two other drives that ended on fourth-and-short.
Ravenna’s best play in the red zone, it seemed, was a direct snap to a player who might have “Slash” as a middle name, simply because of the multiple positions he can play. On the first drive of the second quarter, senior Grant Parker, a receiver/tight end, received the direct snap in a Wildcat formation and plowed his way into the end zone from three yards out to break a scoreless tie.
“Our offense kind of struggled because I think we couldn’t adjust to the cold weather and rain,” Parker said. “We go (to the Wildcat) a lot of times in fourth-and-short. We’ve done that throughout the season.”
MCC might have scored before halftime, but Price made a key mistake with the Crusaders driving in Bulldog territory with seconds remaining. After the last timeout by MCC, Price was tackled in-bounds at the 17, and the Crusaders couldn’t get huddled in time to run another play, costing them potential points.
Ravenna essentially clinched the game with its most impressive drive of the contest, late in the third quarter. The Bulldogs started pinned deep at their own 11, but a 44-yard pass from quarterback Conner Kilbourne to sophomore receiver Thomas McCullough got them rolling. The drive ended with another Parker carry and score, this time from five yards out, putting Ravenna up 14-0 with 1:08 left in the third.
The Crusaders could never get going, punting on their opening two series in the fourth quarter and having their last drive end on a fourth-down penalty.
Kilbourne b completed 11-of-14 passes for 132 yards and also rushed 18 times for 117 yards, most of which came on draws up the middle.
Samuels said MCC did a good job of taking away the Bulldogs’ top receiver, senior Calvin Schullo, but sophomore McCullough stepped up with six catches for 106 yards.
“We’re all in alignment and we’re all buying into the culture being built here,” Samuels said. “And that means we get to come out again on Monday and play again.”
Price completed 10-of-16 passes for 75 yards and led the Crusaders run game with 27 yards on 13 carries.
MCC, which loses only seven seniors from this year’s squad, finishes its season at 6-3.