RAVENNA – Nothing like those Friday night lights. Thursday night lights are not a bad alternative, as varsity football teams from Ravenna and Mason County Central discovered at Citizens Field.
Ravenna defeated Mason County Central, 53-8, in a West Michigan Conference game played Thursday because of an officiating shortage.
For the host Bulldogs (3-1, 2-1 West Michigan Conference), it was an opportunity to bounce back from last week’s 42-0 loss at Whitehall. For the Spartans, it was the first time their varsity team was able to take the field this season.
“Happy getting the win. I definitely think there’s a lot of things we can still build on,” Ravenna second-year coach Justin Ego said. “After that game last week, the disappointment, (we) had a great week of practice. I’m excited to come out here and get the win.
“You know, a lot of penalties and a lot of kind of boneheaded mistakes and stuff like that we’ve got to tighten up big-time if we want to compete in the games we want to compete in.”
Ravenna will have to be on its game next week, as the Bulldogs hit the road for another big-time test against reigning Division 6 state champion Montague.
As for Mason County Central (0-2, 0-2), the school announced last month that the football program was going to a hybrid varsity and junior varsity schedule because of low roster numbers in the junior and senior classes. The Spartans dropped Ludington, Oakridge, Montague and Whitehall from the varsity schedule, leaving them with five games.
Then, Mason County Central’s varsity team was impacted by coronavirus and forced to postpone the season opener against Manistee and drop its game against Hart in Week 2. Next week, the Spartans are scheduled to host Shelby.
“We’ve been fighting through a lot. We fought through the whole COVID deal and, really, we lost two weeks of practice there, we lost three games because of that, and it’s really put us behind,” said Mason County Central’s Scott Briggs, who in his 25th season is the elder statesman of coaches in the Muskegon area.
“But, you saw it, they kept fighting to the end. They’re going to get better. We’ll watch the film and we’ll get better (next) week and there’s a lot of football ahead of us.”
Ravenna built a 31-0 halftime lead, then the Bulldogs scored in the first two minutes of the second half to get the running clock moving.
The ’Dogs led 53-0 midway through the fourth quarter, but Mason County Central did not give up. The Spartans got on the board on Ethan Wood’s 60-yard touchdown pass to Xander Gajeski and Gage Ruiz’s two-point conversion run with 1:17 remaining.
Ravenna senior quarterback Kyle Beebe led the way with 13-of-19 passing for 194 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. He hit Grant Becklin on scoring passes covering 44 and 14 yards. Beebe also scored on TD runs of 18 and 11 yards in the first half. Ravenna’s Clay Schullo scored on runs of 9 and 2 yards.
Hunter Hogan dazzled for the ’Dogs with his legs, both with his running and placekicking. Hogan ripped off an 80-yard TD run in the fourth quarter among his game-high 126 yards on just four attempts, plus he hit a 30-yard field goal to end the first half and finished 5-of-5 on PATs.
Drew Mabrito paced the Ravenna defense with 7 ½ tackles, including 1 ½ sacks, while Dayton Thomas had 4 ½ stops. Thomas McCullough picked off two passes for the Bulldogs.
“We just tried correcting a lot of, like, the little things because we had a lot of little stuff that affected us last week and let it get away, so we just tried to fix it all this week and get back on track,” Beebe said.
Wood led Mason County Central defensively with six tackles, while Peyton Merz had 4 ½ tackles.
Briggs liked the fight he saw from his team, and he believes the Spartans can continue to improve with great practices.
On the other sideline, Ego is pleased overall with the progress his program is making, considering he was hired last year amid the pandemic and did not get an offseason to get to know his players and implement his system.
“Last year was really tough, getting my mentality in and stuff. But I think this offseason really helped kind of get my personality and my philosophies and stuff across to the kids,” said Ego, who has the added benefit of being in the district this year as Ravenna Middle School’s dean of students.
“I kind of always say, more than X’s and O’s, (it’s) kind of learning the kids more. Last year, you couldn’t really be around them in the offseason and you had to stay away and that. … It’s all about relationship-building and that’s what we’re here for and the X’s and O’s are kind of just a bonus on top.”
Next Friday’s game at Montague is an opportunity for Ravenna to show what it has learned since the disappointing loss at Whitehall.
The Bulldogs had four turnovers last week and none Thursday against Mason County Central. Ego said they’ll have to continue to clean up some miscues, such as penalties, if they want to compete against Montague.
“That’s what we’re trying to do because we know last week we didn’t play as well as we can,” Beebe said. “We know if we come out and play good next week, then we can show people what we’re really about and stuff like that and that we’re not the team we were last week.”
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