By Nate Thompson
RAVENNA – If there was ever a stat that perfectly summed up the dramatic change of a game, it would be the third-quarter rushing totals between Oakridge and Ravenna on Friday evening at Citizens Field at Ravenna High School.
It was Corey Vanderputte 148, Ravenna negative 3.
Facing a surprising 13-12 deficit at halftime, Oakridge roared back with 22 unanswered points in its dominating third quarter, sparked by a rejuvenated effort to run the ball. That included a pair of long touchdown runs by Vanderputte, the Eagles’ junior running back.
That effort allowed Oakridge to post a 34-13 victory over the Bulldogs to improve its season record to 4-1. The Eagles will close their regular season next week with a key battle against Whitehall.
Ravenna fell to 2-3 on the season.
Vanderputte finished the contest with 203 yards on 14 carries, with the majority of those yards coming when they mattered most. Ravenna limited the Eagles’ featured back to just 52 yards on four carries in the first half. Oakridge also had three turnovers before halftime, which severely deflated its offense.
“(Ravenna) did a really good job of loading the box and sent a lot of pressure at us,” Vanderputte said. “And they were doing a really good job at getting through. In the second half, we started running out of the T (formation), our line got a lot of good pushes, and we opened up some holes and started running through them.
“We made it a big point of emphasis that we’re not above them. We knew to come back, we had to play hard every down.”
The turnover bug shifted to the Bulldogs in the third quarter, including a fumble on their opening drive of the second half. Oakridge capitalized with four straight runs, the last being a quick hitter up the middle to senior Gage Lamadline, who broke free for a 23-yard touchdown.
A 2-point conversion run by Vanderputte put the Eagles up 20-13.
Ravenna went three-and-out on its next series, and Oakridge struck again with a 56-yard run by Vanderputte, extending the Eagles’ advantage to 28-13.
“Corey ended up finding his groove,” said Oakridge head coach Cary Harger. “He had better vision in his cuts and did a better job of letting things develop. Ravenna really wanted to feather us out, but our guys kept moving their feet, kept blocking, and when we saw the gaps open up, we took what we could get out of it.”
Vanderputte later added a 75-yard scamper on a counter run with 1:30 left to play in the third, which put Oakridge comfortably ahead at 34-13.
Ravenna looked primed to pull off an upset throughout the first half.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bulldogs struck first with a 22-yard touchdown connection from junior quarterback Kyle Beebe to receiver Joel Emery with 9:50 remaining in the second. Beebe’s jump ball pass looked like it had a chance to be intercepted, but Emery elevated a little higher than the Eagles’ defensive back to snag the pass.
Oakridge answered with a little razzle-dazzle, when a lateral to senior Braedyn Beattie turned into a long heave to a wide-open Jacob Danicek for a 62-yard touchdown. The Eagles’ extra point failed, however, keeping Ravenna up 7-6.
Danicek scored again on Oakridge’s next possession in the second with a 3-yard touchdown scamper, but their 2-point pass failed, leaving the Eagles with a 12-7 advantage.
Ravenna retook the lead in exciting fashion right before the break. With heavy rains coming down, Beebe found sophomore Hunter Hogan open for a route across the middle. Hogan cut toward the sideline, broke a pair of arm tackles and raced 64 yards to give the Bulldogs the lead at halftime, 13-12.
“I told the kids, if we as coaches undersold this team, I apologize for that,” Harger said about the fight that Ravenna put up. “Our kids were reading some of Ravenna’s scores and thinking it was going to be a cakewalk. You can’t do that. Rivalry games can be battles, and we found that out in the first half tonight.”
Ravenna totaled just 16 rushing yards on 17 carries and 128 yards overall. Beebe completed 14 passes for 112 yards, but tossed two interceptions.
Defensively, defensive tackle Hunter Burns had a monster game for Ravenna with 13 tackles, including five for losses.
Hayden Gillette tied for the team lead with eight tackles and also had an interception for Oakridge.