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Respected history celebrated at annual Kent Roosevelt-Ravenna Captains Luncheon

Respected history celebrated at annual Kent Roosevelt-Ravenna Captains Luncheon


By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor

The Kent Roosevelt and Ravenna football rivalry turns 109 on Thursday — and it is still making history.

For the first time in the rivalry’s longstanding history, the game will be played on a Thursday night.

The game has long been moved around the schedule and in recent history, it was scheduled for Week 10 when both the Rough Riders and Ravens were members of the Portage Trail Conference.

When Kent Roosevelt exited the PTC in 2015, the matchup became non-league and fell within the first three weeks of the regular season.

Brimfield Insurance’s Andrew Madonio (center) stands holding The Big R Trophy and is flanked on his left by members of the Kent Roosevelt football team and on the right by members of the Ravenna football team. All attended Tuesday’s Captains Luncheon.

For the 2023 campaign, the two schools agreed to open their season with the storied showdown and Ravenna athletic director Jim Lunardi proposed the idea to play it on Thursday night ahead of most schools opening the season on Friday.

No matter what night the game has been played on in the past or will play on in the future, it will forever be historic.

That is the common message throughout Tuesday’s Captains Luncheon hosted at NEOMED and sponsored by Brimfield Insurance and University Hospital Portage Medical.

Football, cheer and band captains from both Kent Roosevelt and Ravenna attended, alongside dignitaries from each school district and communities, which included school administration, community leaders, as well as Kent mayor Jerry Fiala and Ravenna mayor Frank Seman.

Hall of Fame royalty was also in attendance, with retired Kent Roosevelt football head coach John Nemec featured as the distinguished speaker.

Nemec spoke fondly of the rivalry, which he spent nearly 30 years coaching in, and highlighted three specific games that vividly stick out in his memory:

   1. The Rough Riders’ 10-6 victory in 1982, which came in Week 6 of the season. Nemec’s team started the year 0-5 and were struggling inside an Stack-I offense. On the Sunday before The Game, he proposed completely changing to a run-and-shoot style offense. Some opposed it, but the change was made anyway and not only did the Riders defeat Ravenna, they went on a five-game winning streak and won a league championship.

   2. The Rough Riders’ 29-28 loss to Ravenna in overtime in 2009. After Kent Roosevelt scored the first touchdown in overtime and kicked the extra point to go up seven, the Ravens promptly scored to trail 28-27. Ravenna head coach Jim Lunardi chose to go for the 2-point conversion, “made a great call,” according to Nemec, and the Ravens won the game.

   3. Kent Roosevelt’s 26-20 double-overtime victory in 2012, which was remembered far less for who won or lost the game, but more because of Ravenna’s recognition and support for Rough Riders Division I college recruit Ryan Anderson, who had been diagnosed with bone cancer the previous spring and could not play his senior season. At the conclusion of the game, Lunardi presented Anderson a check of a sizable sum that his program had fundraised to help his family offset some of their medical costs.

Nemec closed his inspiring speech with an appeal to the player’s of Thursday’s 109th chapter to respect the game, the rivalry and everything it has grown to be — and to respect each other.

Thursday’s game will be played at Ravenna’s Portage Community Bank Stadium, with a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Ravenna leads the all-time series 54-51-3.

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