Friday, October 3, 2008

Rah Rah for Roosevelt!

Of course its always nice to win a rivalry game, but even more so when it means something beyond local bragging rights. Tonight I attended the Roosevelt vs. Ravenna game at Roosevelt Stadium in Kent. Both teams came in at 3-0 in the Portage Trail Conference (PTC) Metro division, so whoever won would seemingly be on their way to a division championship. It seemed like everyone was picking Ravenna, at least as far as the local newspapers were concerned. Both have their "pigskin picks" and the Record-Courier panel had all but one of the 7 voting sportswriters choosing Ravenna to win and then the Akron Beacon-Journal did a video where they talked about their picks for select games of importance and they all said that Ravenna's offense would be too much for Roosevelt. The Cleveland Plain Dealer also picked Ravenna. I felt good about Roosevelt's chances because Roosevelt has had an excellent defense all year, including two shutouts. One of those shutouts was last week at Southeast (42-0), a team that put 34 points on Ravenna the week prior and led for most of that game before Ravenna pulled away for a 52-34 win. As I mentioned in a previous post, Roosevelt has a really fast defense, and I felt it would be able to hold against Ravenna. Whenever you have a good defense against a good offense, usually the defense prevails, at least in my football-watching experience.

Well, I arrived during halftime as I first had to attend a mini-conference for music education in nearby Streetsboro. I was a little disappointed when I found out earlier this week that the conference conflicted with the game. Friday night football is one of the things I really enjoy doing, so it's frustrating when other things interfere with it, but even more so when it's a big game like this! Anyway, I went to the first session of the conference and will attend 3 sessions tomorrow as well (it was quite a workout doing different folk dances we can use in music classes!). So, I arrived at halftime with Roosevelt up 13-9. I would find out later that Roosevelt initially led 13-0 before Ravenna got on the board with a touchdown and field goal. In the second half, the Ravens added another field goal to get within 13-12, but had ample opportunities to take the lead. Both teams had a lot of penalties (15 total for 152 yards...ouch!), but especially Roosevelt. There was one point they had a second-and-42 or something like that. But, Roosevelt's defense also had five interceptions, and I believe three were in the second half. Most of the second half Ravenna didn't punt, not because they were moving the ball, but mostly because they kept throwing interceptions. I know people will say Ravenna played poorly in that regard, but you have to give the defense credit for interceptions as much as poor offensive execution. Many of the interceptions were the result of the quarterback being under pressure as well as good coverage of receivers. Some were poor decisions by the QB of course too. Anyway, Roosevelt got a long kickoff return right after Ravenna got within 13-12 and was aided by a personal foul later to keep a drive alive and ended up scoring again to make it 19-12 (the point after was tipped and missed). That ended up being the final score as Roosevelt couldn't move forward with the ball (they would have a second-and-38 at one point late in the 4th due to consecutive penalties) and Ravenna couldn't move much either against the Roosevelt defense and then would throw an interception. So, with that game in hand, Roosevelt has three games left against teams they should beat, well, at least on paper. The teams they are playing (Springfield, Crestwood, and Norton) currently have a combined record of 2-19.

It was nice to see such a large crowd from both sides. The stands themselves were pretty full. It's pretty rare to see the visitors stands full for any game, but they were pretty full tonight, which didn't surprise me at all. In reality, there were way more people than the stadium can hold since so many, especially students, just hang around on the grounds or stand around the fence surrounding the track. Roosevelt Stadium probably holds around 5-6,000 people for seating and I would guess there were close to 7,000 people there, though I really don't know.

The rivalry with Ravenna is an old rivalry. It goes back to 1922, which was the first year that Roosevelt was called Roosevelt (before then it was just Kent High School). Since then the two schools have played 86 times counting tonight's game, with Roosevelt holding a 44-41-1 lead in the series. The rivalry between Kent and Ravenna goes WAAAAAY back though, long before 1922. It pretty much goes back to the very beginning when the two cities were first being settled; Ravenna in 1799 and Kent in 1805. In 1807 it was announced a new county, Portage County, was being formed. Competition between the two tiny settlements began as Ravenna founder Benjamin Tappan and Kent (Franklin Township) proprietor Aaron Olmstead both pushed to have their settlements named the county seat. Although it seemed that Olmstead was going to secure the county seat for his settlement (which he did not ever actually live in), he died before the land he had set aside for the county seat could be donated to the cause and his heirs used the land, located near what is now Standing Rock Cemetary across from Roosevelt High School. Ravenna ended up being the county seat. As the two towns slowly grew, they were in constant competition for settlers and businesses. In fact, the namesake of the city of Kent, Marvin Kent, was actually born in Ravenna and came to what was then Franklin Mills in the 1850's with his father Zenas. In fact, local historian and Record-Courier editor Roger Di Paolo did an article not too long ago that talked about how Zenas Kent came to Franklin Mills from Ravenna after he had a falling-out with another Ravenna businessman. ""It is said that he declared he would live to see grass growing in the streets (of Ravenna)," historian E.Y. Lacey wrote in a 1933 account in the Evening Record, "and he set about to make his word good" by turning his interests to the tiny settlement of Franklin Mills, which was located west of Ravenna."

Ravenna and Kent would compete throughout the 20th century for the title of the county's largest city as each city seemed to pass each other back and forth. They were also both among 20 competing sites for the location of a new northeastern Ohio state normal school in 1910. Kent would end up being chosen and it was said the Ravenna delegation knew their bid was doomed when the state delegation arrived 4 hours late to tour Ravenna's proposed site for the new school. In the history of Kent State it says:
"The Ravenna welcoming committee had been waiting, with mounting anxiety, for four hours when three cars braked in front of the city hotel and the five commissioners climbed out, along with some familiar Kent faces, all smiling and laughing. The Ravenna men knew in their bones that they had missed their lunch and wasted four hours—all for nothing: the normal school would not be coming to their town. And they were right, though the commissioners did not make their final decision until after paying a surprise visit, on November 12, to the fifty-three-acre Kent Farm."
Of course this normal school evolved into Kent State University and started out pretty small, but is now Ohio's third largest university. By the end of the 1950's, Kent State's growth began to really fuel growth in Kent and so the population battle between the two cities effectively ended. Today, Kent is the county's largest city at around 28,000 residents while Ravenna has just under 12,000 and is actually now the county's 4th largest city behind Aurora and Streetsboro (though it should be noted that both Aurora and Streetsboro incorportated their entire former township. If Kent and Ravenna did the same thing, then they would have close to 20,000 residents in Ravenna and over 34,000 in Kent.). Because Kent is the larger city, Roosevelt is also, naturally, a larger school by about 500 students. In fact, there are only a few sports where Roosevelt and Ravenna are actually in the same state size division, which varies by sport (football, for instance, is divided into 6 size divisions based on enrollment while basketball is divided into 4). In football, Roosevelt is part of Ohio's division II and Ravenna is division III (in Ohio division I is the biggest schools, down to division VI). What that means is that in theory, both Roosevelt and Ravenna could win state titles in the same year since each enrollment division crowns a state champion. This year, they are both on track to qualify for the state playoffs in their respective division's regions, which would mark the first time that both would be in the playoffs at the same time.

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