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East Ridge boys soccer: North St. Paul too much for Raptors in section final

North St. Paul boasts one of the most prolific scoring offenses in the state and the Polars showcased their potency with a second half blitz of East Ridge for a 4-2 victory in the Section 4AA championship in North St. Paul.

Top-seeded and second-ranked North St. Paul (17-1-1) rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the second half for a flurry of goals beginning in the 49th minute when John Anderson headed home a corner kick to start the scoring which spanned a total of 16 minutes. Adam Hildebrandt scored off a cross from the far post in the 53rd minute while Adolfo Barrera-Gonzalez added a goal off a header from a corner kick in the 61st minute and Justin Oliver notched the final tally with a goal in the 67th minute.

The third-seeded Raptors (14-2-2) had given up just seven goals on the season. The most the Raptors allowed in one game was two in a 3-2 victory over Lakeville North Sept. 28.

“They came out intense,” East Ridge head coach Anthony Bidwell said. “They wanted it more, clearly.”

North St. Paul’s relentless attack wore down the Raptors, who failed to organize defensively as well as they had in the first half.

“Unfortunately tonight they went against a team that was determined and they play very direct and they have fast forwards and always look to run in behind,” Bidwell said. “They just keep coming at you.”

East Ridge took a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute of the game when sophomore Jarrod Ronquillo struck a shot that deflected off a Polars player and into the net.

The Raptors appeared to have a second goal in the 47th minute when senior Alec Tostenrud scored, but the goal was waived off because of an offsides call.

East Ridge junior Connor Stevenson added a goal with 2 minutes, 45 seconds left in the game, but it proved too little, too late for the Raptors.

East Ridge had several opportunities to score, hitting two crossbars in the game, but failed to finish once again. The Raptors have struggled to finish all season and it continued in the biggest game of the year.

“As fortunate as we’ve been we’ve been just as unfortunate,” Bidwell said.

Last season East Ridge knocked off North St. Paul, which held the top seed and No. 1 ranking in the state at the time, 1-0 in the Section 4AA semifinals behind a stout defensive effort.

The Raptors will graduate eight seniors from the team this season.

-Nick Gerhardt