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East Ridge receiver Xavier Cole was one of three Raptors to record touchdowns on Friday against the Royals. Teammate Nick Leach compiled five touchdowns for East Ridge. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker
East Ridge receiver Xavier Cole was one of three Raptors to record touchdowns on Friday against the Royals. Teammate Nick Leach compiled five touchdowns for East Ridge. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

Prep football: Raptors romp in Royals Stadium

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sports Cottage Grove, 55016

Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

The last time the Raptors came to Royals Stadium, the home team survived by the smallest of margins after an overtime battle.

There was no such drama on Friday.

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East Ridge, the No. 3-ranked team in Class 6A, marched onto the Woodbury High School football field, took control early and didn’t look back on its way to a 49-12 win.

Standout Raptors running back Nick Leach continued to put his dominating run game on display, finding pay dirt five times in the game and gaining 179 yards in the first half alone.

East Ridge head coach Mike Pendino called the win, which improved the Raptors’ record to 3-0 and kept the team in first place in the Suburban East Conference, a big one.

“Any time you can beat your rivals, it’s a good night,” he said after the game that returned the Griffin Cup back to East Ridge.

The loss drops the Royals to 1-2 on the season and in SEC play. Pendino credited Woodbury as a team that didn’t give up.

“They do a lot of things offensively and defensively,” he said. “They’re a good football team and very well coached.”

Woodbury head coach Andy Hill said he knew his team would be in for a tough match-up against the larger East Ridge squad that can pile up points in a hurry.

“They played hard – stuck together,” Hill said of his Royals. “I think we’re on the verge of having a very good football season. We just ran into a good team.”

High-powered, unusual first quarter

East Ridge took control early in the game, beginning by recovering a forced fumble on Woodbury’s first possession. The Raptors converted the possession and scored three plays later on a Leach touchdown.

The senior running back scored again with 4:28 left in the quarter that was followed a Woodbury three-and-out.

With 3:06 remaining the first quarter, things took a turn for the unusual.

East Ridge sophomore quarterback Seth Green found senior receiver Xavier Cole in the end zone on a 1-yard pass that put the Raptors up 20-0. But immediately after the play, referees conferred for several minutes until sending senior East Ridge standout J.C. Hassenauer to the benches.

The standout center and University of Alabama recruit had been ejected for the remainder of the game – a move that Pendino said is “unheard of” in high school football. Neither he nor Hill commented on the reason for the ejection. At least one Woodbury player reported that Hassenauer executed non-football contact after plays just before the ejection.

Leach unleashed

Woodbury got its legs under itself in the second quarter and got on the scoreboard with a 16-yard touchdown run by junior running back Donnell Rodgers. The score narrowed the gap to 21-6; Woodbury’s point-after attempt failed.

That was as close as the Royals would get.

One minute and one second later, Leach scampered into the end zone for a 34-yard score that put East Ridge up 28-6.

Leach lodged his fourth touchdown of the half with just under a minute, giving the Raptors a 35-6 lead.

The Royals managed to close out the first half with more than a little momentum, however.

Woodbury junior Ben Donnelly returned the ensuing kickoff to the East Ridge 48-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Brady Mundahl advanced the ball another 10 yards on a completion to senior John McNiff and put Woodbury on the 30 yard line one play later on a keeper with 22 seconds left in the half.

Woodbury found itself in a third-and-goal situation on the 7 yard line, where Mundahl threw an end zone pass to senior Reid Peters. The senior was jolted hard on the play – which ended in an incompletion – by East Ridge’s Stephan Orehosky, but cleared his head in time for the following play.

With six seconds left, Mundahl threw a strike that Peters hauled in.

East Ridge led 35-12 at the half.

Second half

Woodbury’s coach mapped out a halftime plan to erase the deficit, but the Raptors had no plan of acquiescing.

Woodbury threatened immediately in the third quarter by recovering an onside kick and eventually driving to the Raptors’ 5 yard line. A stout East Ridge defense left Woodbury without a score on the possession and forced a turnover on downs.

Leach scored his fifth and final touchdown with 5:28 remaining in the third quarter on a 17-yard run that gave East Ridge a 42-12 lead. He sat out the remainder of the game.

The Raptors put the finishing touches on the win in fourth quarter on a 60-yard touchdown pass from Green to junior receiver Bobby Remke.

Week 4 match-ups

East Ridge now turns its attention to another District 833 rival – Park. The Wolfpack earned its first win of the season Friday in a win over White Bear Lake.

The Royals, meanwhile, prepare for Roseville and its quarterback – senior Jacques Perra, who Hill called “the best quarterback in the (Suburban East) conference.”

Hill said his players identified immediately the need to recover and move on the from the loss, noting that last year’s team went reeling after losing to East Ridge and didn’t regain its confidence until late in the season.

“We’ve got an incredible season ahead of us,” Hill said.

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