Woodridge football holds off conference rival Ravenna

Eric Clutter
Correspondent
Woodridge quarterback Ben Kiser rolls out for a gain in yardage against Ravenna during the first quarter Friday, October 16, 2020 in Peninsula.
Woodridge running back Dayshard Garr-Stafford makes a run up the middle for a touchdown against Ravenna Friday, October 16, 2020 in Peninsula.
Woodridge running back Owen Snyder battles through Ravenna defense on a run in the second quarter Friday, October 16, 2020 in Peninsula.

When things are going well for a team, players make big plays in key moments to keep the momentum going.

David Thompson was that player Oct. 16 for the Woodridge Bulldogs.

With Woodridge deadlocked at 17-17 with visiting Ravenna late in the fourth quarter, Thompson took a kickoff 84 yards for the eventual winning score as the Bulldogs held off the Ravens 24-23 in a Metro Athletic Conference contest.

After the Ravens' Ian Johnston successfully booted a 32-yard field goal to level the score for the third time, Thompson initially muffed Johnston ensuing kick.

However, Thompson regrouped nicely, gaining possession of the ball and making his way to the far sidelines near midfield, and then putting it into high gear the rest of the way to the end zone with 4:22 showing on the clock.

"When I dropped it, I figured I would just get it, get back up and run as fast as I can," said Thompson. "Since I made a mistake, I need to hustle and do what I needed to do. I did my job. My whole team did their job, and I am so happy they did their job. I am so thankful." 

Woodridge kicker Trey Yanock, who converted a short field goal earlier in the final period to put the hosts ahead 17-14, added what would become a crucial extra point to make it a seven-point difference.

The Ravens didn't panic as they marched 65 yards in five plays -- all on the ground -- in just under two minutes.

It was junior Philip Barton doing the scoring honors for the third time for Ravenna, scooting 38 yards up the middle. Earlier, Barton had found the end zone on runs of 29 and 3 yards. He finished with 107 yards rushing.

Johnston trotted on for the PAT. His first attempt never got off the ground as a false start penalty pushed the try back five yards. His second effort sailed wide left, leaving the Ravens still behind by a single digit.

Woodridge fielded the ensuing short kick and managed to churn out a couple of first downs to close out the win.

The Bulldogs, following an 0-3 start to the season, have now won four straight regular-season outings to improve to 4-4.

"I think we have come more together as a team, are playing more as a team now," said Thompson. "(We) have less penalties, and I feel like we are just coming together. We have a good team and are just going to keep rolling."

Woodridge coach Jeff Decker told his team afterward that the collective effort was a "gutsy" win, coming on the heels of a playoff loss last weekend and a couple of key injuries.

"This year is just so weird," he said. "You lose a playoff game and you think what are we going to do to keep the kids rolling. We didn't have any drop-off in practice this week at all. We had lost one of our top players -- Kamari Mitchell, one of our receivers. He is the guy who we tended to go down the field a lot to keep drives going. So there is a second reason that the team could have been, 'Oh, sorry for us.' Instead they had a great week of practice.

"We knew we were really evenly matched with them, so we knew it was going to have to be a four-quarter game. I was proud of the way our linemen played. They were just churning out first down, first down, first down. Then the running backs running the ball hard and defense making plays when they needed to. And on that final (missed) PAT, some guys got their hands up in there to affect that kick. Those are the type of gutsy things to finish a game."

The Ravens, meanwhile, have now dropped their last five games, and are at 2-6 with three games still left to play.

"Ravenna coach Jim Lunardi praised the effort of his players that came up just short.

   "Our kids played well, hung in there," said the veteran coach. "We responded (all night) and scored. It kept going back and forth. Sometimes, things like this happen. ... It's tough on our kids right now, tough on myself and all the coaches right now because it is not easy to come out and put the time in and effort in and come up a touchdown short here, or a point here."

Woodridge senior running back Dayshawn Garr-Stafford opened the scoring with a five-yard burst to account for the lone first-quarter points. He finished with 84 yards in 16 attempts.

Bulldogs' sophomore signal-caller David Hitchings, who relieved starter Benjamin Kiser in the second quarter, connected with Christian Everly on a nine-yard TD pass in the waning seconds of the half to give Woodridge a 14-7 edge at the intermission.