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East Ridge football: Raptors ‘on the map’ with 28-15 win over Stillwater

East Ridge senior linebacker Brad Simonson sacks Stillwater quarterback Trevor Tillet in the Raptors’ 28-15 win over the Ponies. (Bulletin photo by Patrick Johnson)1 / 3
East Ridge freshman running back Dominik London carried the ball 18 times for 115 yards and a touchdown in the Raptors’ win over Stillwater on Friday in Woodbury. (Bulletin photo by Patrick Johnson)2 / 3
East Ridge senior tight end George Behr rumbles down to the Stillwater 2-yard line at the end of a key 20-yard reception in the second half of the Raptors’ win over the Ponies. (Bulletin photo by Patrick Johnson) 3 / 3

A post-game “Gatorade bath” of East Ridge head coach Mike Pendino exhibited the significance of the Raptors’ first-ever win over Suburban East Conference rival Stillwater on Friday, Oct. 11, at The Nest in Woodbury.

East Ridge (6-1; 6-1 SEC) beat the Ponies 28-15 in a game that was in the balance until late in the fourth quarter.

“This is the biggest win for East Ridge right here,” Raptors’ head coach Mike Pendino said. “We finally beat a perennial conference power. This puts us on the map with them now.”

Up 21-15 with 5 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the game, East Ridge – which is ranked third in the state in Class 6A – put together a back-breaking, 11-play touchdown drive that chewed more than four minutes off the clock and gave the Raptors a 28-15 lead with just 42 seconds left in the game.

Facing a 4th-and-13 with only 48 seconds left on the game clock, East Ridge sophomore quarterback Seth Green hit sophomore receiver Kjetil Cline across the middle for a 33-yard touchdown to make it 28-15 – after the extra point by freshman kicker Grant Ryerse – and all but seal the win over the Ponies (3-4; 3-4 SEC) .

“We’ve been working on that play the whole season,” Green said. “My line gave me the time to throw it. I trust Kjetil. I just laid it out there for him. He’s an athlete and got it and scored.  It felt great.”

Both teams got off to a slow start in the game. After each teams’ second possessions, East Ridge had negative 17 total yards and Stillwater had minus 14 total yards.

East Ridge freshman running back Dominik London got the Raptors on the scoreboard for the first time with a 24-yard touchdown run with 1:04 left in the first quarter, making it a 7-3 game.

Stillwater took back the lead, however, on a 2-yard touchdown dive by junior running back Zach Knox with 5:15 remaining in the first half, making the score 10-7 in favor of the Ponies.

East Ridge provided a counter-punch, though, as senior running back Austin Kamrath went into the end zone untouched for a 2-yard touchdown run to make it 14-10 East Ridge with 1:09 left in the first half.

East Ridge began the second half looking much sharper than the first half.

After the Raptors’ defense held Stillwater to a 3-and-out on the Ponies’ opening possession of the second half, the East Ridge offense put together a six-play scoring drive, capped by another Kamrath 2-yard touchdown run, to make it 21-10 with 9:09 remaining in the third quarter.

The biggest play of the drive came when Green hit senior tight end George Behr with a 20-yard catch-and-run down to the Ponies’ 2-yard line.

“Once again we started out slow – that’s going to change next week – but we pounded the ball well, they were a big physical team, but we were able to outplay them,” Behr said. “This was a huge win for us. We knew Stillwater was going to come out firing. We’ve been sloppy the past couple of games. We knew we had to come out and give it our all.”

East Ridge wouldn’t score again until the closing seconds of the game as Stillwater chipped away on the Raptors’ lead.

A botched snap on a Raptors’ punt attempt sailed into the East Ridge end zone, giving Stillwater two points on a safety to make it 21-12 with 5:55 remaining in the third quarter.

Stillwater then made it a 21-15 game with 5:27 remaining in regulation on a 21-yard field goal by senior kicker Charlie Styrbicki. Stillwater converted three third-and-short situations to keep the drive alive. But, on third-and-goal from the Raptors’ 4-yard line, East Ridge senior Brian Ishola knocked down a pass from Stillwater senior quarterback Trevor Tillet to force fourth down and hold the Ponies to a field goal.

But, that’s as close as Stillwater would get.

“We ran the football nice and threw it nice and defensively we’re getting better each week,” Pendino said. “We started off slow offensively. I think we gave them too much to do and had too much going in. We finally cut some things out and that really helped us.”

The East Ridge offense – which entered the game No. 1 in the SEC in yards-per-game and points-per-game – amassed 347 total yards. For the Raptors, London carried the ball 18 times for 115 yards and a touchdown and Green was 9-for-19 for 141 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball nine times for 73 yards. Green’s main target was Cline, who caught four passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Behr added four catches for 54 yards.

The East Ridge defense – which also was ranked No. 1 in the SEC in yards allowed per game entering the contest – held Stillwater to 205 total yards. The Raptors held Knox, who was No. 1 in the SEC in rushing yards into the game, to just 58 yards. Senior linebacker Brad Simonson had two sacks in the game, giving him a total of nine on the year.

“So far, I think this is the biggest win in East Ridge history and it helps determine where we’ll be in the conference ranking and section ranking,” Green said. “That’s why it was so big.”

East Ridge will be at Hastings (3-4; 3-4 SEC) on Wednesday for the regular-season finale. A win over the Raiders would give the Raptors the Suburban East Conference championship crown and, most likely, a No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

A win by East Ridge and a win by Roseville – who is at Mounds View Wednesday – in the regular-season finale would give the two teams matching 7-1 records. However, East Ridge beat Roseville earlier this season.

“We beat Hastings and we have the conference championship,” Pendino said.

 -Patrick Johnson

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
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