By Colin Harris | Staff Writer
Rain, cold weather and the Louisville Leopards crashed the party as Ravenna cut the ribbon on the newly remodeled Portage Community Bank Stadium Friday evening.
The visiting Leopards rode a hot start in rainy, 50-degree weather all the way to victory, picking up a 36-22 non-conference win in what Louisville coach John Demarco described as an "ugly" game.
"I told the kids that we were good, we were bad and we were ugly tonight," Demarco said. "We'll have to see the tape, but there are some things that we'll need to address going forward."
There was little to adjust with the way Louisville (3-0) began the game, as the Leopards came away with points on each of their first five possessions.
After forcing Ravenna (0-3) into a three-and-out on the first drive of the game, Louisville marched the ball 41 yards on eight plays, setting up a 30-yard field goal by kicker Jordan Hughes.
Louisville forced the first turnover of the evening on the resulting Ravenna drive, when A.J. Minster popped the ball loose from Ravens quarterback Warren Bradley. Minster also recovered the ball at the Ravenna eight-yard line. Four plays later, Leopards QB Connor Zwick punched it in on 4th-and-goal from the 1 for a Louisville touchdown.
Zwick was responsible for much of Louisville's offense in the first half, scoring rushing touchdowns of 1 and 10 yards, while also hooking up with receiver Alex Hollifield for a 36-yard pitch-and-catch that put the Leopards up 16-0.
Playing in only his third game under center, Zwick finished his evening rushing the ball 18 times for 47 yards and two touchdowns, while completing 8-of-16 passes for 95 yards and a score.
Zwick's counterpart, Bradley did not have as efficient a night under center for the Ravens.
The Ravenna junior had a peculiar evening, finishing 5-of-9 for 49 yards and an interception -- a pick by Louisville's Zach Shea that was returned 47 yards for a touchdown. Bradley also fumbled the ball twice while carrying the rock for the Ravens.
But where Bradley's evening took a turn for the unusual was when he was shifted to running back following Shea's INT return in favor of backup QB Derek Cross.
With Bradley split in the backfield alongside teammate Demetrius Fear, the Ravenna offense almost immediately sprung to life. Taking his second handoff from Cross, Bradley burst through the Louisville line for a 28-yard carry. On the next snap, Bradley took it all the way for a 47-yard touchdown run that cut the Louisville lead to 36-14.
On the next Ravenna possession, Bradley wasted no time -- this time, taking the first handoff he saw 83 yards for another Ravenna touchdown.
Bradley finished the evening with 156 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 23 carries. The Ravenna junior's first score came early in the third quarter on a 3-yard QB keeper that gave the Ravens their first points of the night.
Demarco said that the decision to move Bradley to the backfield took his defense by surprise.
"They did some things that we weren't prepared for, and it gave Ravenna a nice offensive set," Demarco said. "Those are not two easy guys to tackle (Bradley and Fear)."
Ravenna head coach Jim Lunardi conceded following the game that Bradley's success in the backfield might have made his decision on who will play quarterback going forward an easy one.
"We've been trying to figure out (the offense), and I think we found some answers tonight," Lunardi said. "But we just can't commit the turnovers we did and we can't be penalized the way we were (9 for 65 yards), and expect to win these kinds of games.
"But I know that we'll regroup and we'll head to Field next week," Lunardi added. "The wins will come for us and we'll contend (in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division) before the end of this season."
Facebook: Colin Harris, Record-Courier