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Football: East Ridge wins first round of playoffs

Senior Ethan Pillar holds the ball up after recovering the fumble for East Ridge. The Raptors defeated Forest Lake 44-16 on Friday night. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 7
Junior Max Giannini dives to grab the Henry Sibley runner to tackle him. Park defeated Henry Sibley 28-0 on Tuesday night in the first round of the playoffs. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 7
Senior running back Uriah Davis scored two touchdowns for the Wolfpack on Tuesday night as Park defeated Henry Sibley 28-0 in the first round of the playoffs. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 3 / 7
Senior quarterback Zach Zebrowski finds an open receiver in the end zone for the score. East Ridge defeats Forest Lake 44-16 to advance to the next round of the playoffs. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 4 / 7
Junior quarterback Jacob Kuemmel throws it down the field to Uriah Davis for a touchdown. Park defeated Henry Sibley 28-0 on Tuesday night in the first round of the playoffs. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 5 / 7
Patrick Lynott and Zach Zebrowski jump in the air to celebrate a touchdown on Friday night. East Ridge defeated Forest Lake 44-16. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 6 / 7
Senior Benny Pierre found an opening and returned a punt for a touchdown to help Park win 28-0 over Henry Sibley in the first round of the playoffs. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 7 / 7

Friday night

East Ridge 44, Forest Lake 16

It wasn't an ideal night for football with rain, wind and cold temperatures. That didn't affect East Ridge on Friday night as the Raptors hosted Forest Lake in the first round of the Class 6A State Football Tournament.

The Raptors used all parts of their game with offense, defense and special teams to pull out a strong 44-16 victory and advance to the next round of the playoffs.

"Our defense stepped up when we needed them most," said head coach Dan Fritze. "Our offense was able to put up some points after those key turnovers. It was a great team effort tonight."

The first quarter was centered around the running game as East Ridge was able to head into the second quarter with a 14-0 lead. Then, the offense disappeared for the early part of the second quarter, but the defense made sure to do its' job and hold Forest Lake's offense.

The defense did just that and also caused a few turnovers for the Raptor offense to take advantage of before the half ended. The defense scored a safety, while the offense scored two more touchdowns to make it a 30-3 lead heading into the half.

"Our defense came up big for us this game," said senior running back Emmanuel Okeleye. "Our offense appreciates this defense and the ability they have to stop drives."

That defense continued their success in the early part of the third quarter as they caused three straight turnovers in the first three drives for Forest Lake. East Ridge intercepted two of the passes and recovered one fumble on the Forest Lake side of the field giving the Raptor offense great field location to start their drive.

The offense took full advantage of the turnovers as they scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to extend the lead to 44-10.

Forest Lake came back in the fourth quarter to score one more touchdown and make it a 44-16 final. It was a good win for the Raptors has they can take a small sigh of relief and prepare for next week's game.

"Anytime you can get the first win in the playoffs that's really important," said senior quarterback Zach Zebrowski. "Now, we need to focus again and get ready for another tough game in the playoffs."

That next game will be against the No. 3 seed Eastview, but the game will be played at East Ridge since the Raptors are the No. 2 seed. The game will be on Friday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.

The players and coaches for East Ridge aren't worried about next Friday and the upcoming game. Instead, they're focused on Monday morning with lifting and going through practice to be fully prepared for Eastview and their next game.

"We just take it one game at a time and one day at a time in practice," Zebrowski said. "We will enjoy the win tonight and get ready for a tough Eastview team next week."

Tuesday night

Park 28, Henry Sibley 0

It was a tale of two halves for the Park Wolfpack on Tuesday night as they opened the first round of the 3AAAAA football playoffs.

The first half had a handful of opportunities for Park to score in the red zone, but the Wolfpack weren't able to capitalize resulting in either interceptions or fumbles. The second half was a complete turnaround as the Wolfpack attacked early and often allowing them to score.

That second half push from the Park offense and a strong Wolfpack defense allowed Park to win 28-0 on Tuesday to advance to the semifinals on Saturday.

"It was a rough first half for us, but we had a good conversation at the half," said senior defensive back and captain Benny Pierre. "Our confidence built during halftime and we were a different team in the second half. Now, we need to bring that mentality to Saturday."

Henry Sibley, who has gone 0-8 this season, played a close game with the Wolfpack in the first half. After the first quarter, the score was tied at 0-0 as no team was able to score.

Part of tie came from Park making some key turnovers in the red zone. The Wolfpack had three different chances in the red zone during the first half and two of them resulted in fumble recoveries for Henry Sibley and another pass was intercepted for the Warriors.

Park was able to score one touchdown in the second quarter as Jacob Kuemmel found running back Uriah Davis for a 73-yard touchdown. Both Kuemmel and Davis had to take over starting positions on the offense as quarterback Marshaun Campbell and running back Gunnar Ossmo were out with injuries.

"I knew I had to step up to the challenge with Gunnar being out," Davis said. "I just wanted to help the team as best as I could to get the win."

The Wolfpack went into the half with a 7-0 lead, but it didn't take long for Park to extend that lead in the third quarter.

In the first drive of the second half, Davis received the ball in the backfield and found an opening. That opening led him to the end zone on a 34-yard touchdown to give Park a 14-0 lead.

Davis wasn't the only one in the backfield on Tuesday night for the Wolfpack as Kaiah Brady found the end zone with a 24-yard touchdown in the third quarter as well. That touchdown allowed the Wolfpack to extend their lead to 21-0.

The lead was comfortable for Park, but Pierre wanted to make sure to add a few more points to the lead. Pierre was down the field waiting for the punt and was able to get through a few Henry Sibley defenders to return the punt for a 60-yard touchdown.

"I was close to getting one in earlier in the game, so it was nice to return this one on the last home game of my high school career," Pierre said. "Definitely a moment I will remember. More importantly, we got the win and our season continues."

The Park football season does continue for another game at least as the Wolfpack travels to Hastings on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. for a rematch in the playoffs.

Park played at Hastings earlier this regular season on Friday, Sept. 14 and the Wolfpack lost 24-21. Davis didn't play in the last game, but Pierre remembers that game from September.

"The offenses were battling back and forth throughout the entire night," Pierre said. "We just need to focus on tackling and keeping that offense going all night."

Hill-Murray 46, Academy Force 8

The Academy Force season came to an end on Tuesday night as Hill-Murray defeated Academy Force 46-8 in the first round of the 3AAAA football playoffs.

Academy Force was looking for its first win of the season, but weren't able to get it against Hill-Murray. Even though the season is over, the season consisted of a lot of learning from the players and head coach Noah Dombrovski is hoping that will lead into the 2019 season.

Brian Mozey

I am the sports writer for the Woodbury Bulletin and South Washington County Bulletin. I'm a graduate from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Iowa State University and have always had a passion for sports since a young age. Whether it was watching or playing sports, I always knew sports would be in my career. I've been born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis and look forward to continuing to learn more about the Woodbury and Cottage Grove area throughout my time in this position. 

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