They were heading for their cars early at East Ridge High School.
East Ridge, the No. 1 seed in the Class 6A, Section 4 playoffs, pounded eighth-seeded Forest Lake 54-14 on Friday, Oct. 25, at The Nest in Woodbury.
Forest Lake (0-9) came out feisty in hopes of a David and Goliath-type upset, but East Ridge wasn’t about to let it happen. Behind an overwhelming defense and four touchdowns by freshman running back Dominik London, the Raptors (8-1) took a 46-7 lead at the half and cruised to the blowout win.
“I felt they played very well tonight and executed what we gave them to do,” East Ridge head coach Mike Pendino said. “They really did a nice job. The defense played lights out and the offense did enough.”
East Ridge was up 14-0 before its offense even took the field.
The Raptors’ defense scored touchdowns on Forest Lake’s first two offensive possessions.
To open the game, East Ridge junior defensive back Sam Cobbs picked off a pass by Forest Lake junior quarterback Brandon Rogers at the 30-yard line and returned it for a touchdown, putting the Raptors up 7-0 just 1 minute, 43 seconds in - after the extra point by freshman Grant Ryerse.
The pick-6 was Cobbs’ first of the season.
“It was pretty cool,” he said. “It didn’t really hit me until after I was in the end zone. The quarterback was getting rushed, the defensive line has been playing amazing all year, and I was there for the pick.”
On Forest Lake’s next possession, senior linebacker Brad Simonson ferociously sacked Rogers, forcing a fumble, and senior Justus Pedro recovered the ball in the Rangers’ end zone, giving East Ridge a 14-0 lead after the extra point.
“It was nice to get an early lead,” Cobbs said. “We knew they had nothing to lose and were going to come out tough. It was nice to get those two defensive touchdowns right off the bat.”
East Ridge held Forest Lake to minus-3 yards on their next possession, forcing a 3-and-out. On the punt, the snap went over the Rangers kicker’s head and was recovered by East Ridge senior linebacker Nate Galvan on Forest Lake’s 8-yard line. Two plays later, East Ridge went up 21-0 on a 6-yard screen pass from sophomore quarterback Seth Green to London and the rout was on.
East Ridge pulled ahead 27-0 with 10:53 remaining in the first half on a 3-yard run by London. On the drive, Green hit senior fullback Austin Kamrath with a 22-yard pass on fourth-and-3 to keep the chains moving.
“Our offense is pretty good,” Kamrath said. “We’ve had some injuries, but we’ve gotten past them. Our line is a huge part of this. They make the holes for me and Dom (London) and give Seth (Green) time to complete passes. That’s all we can ask for. It’s a huge part of our offense.”
An interception by East Ridge junior defensive back Jack Dwyer ruined the Rangers’ next possession. Then, on the very next play, London streaked 46 yards for a touchdown to make it a 34-0 game with 10:23 remaining in the first half.
Buoyed by a long pass from Rogers to senior receiver Mike Aho down to the Raptors’ 14-yard line, the Rangers got on the board with a 4-yard run by Leighton Bierman to cut the deficit to 34-7. But, East Ridge wasn’t done piling it on just yet.
After senior Brad Bolton returned the ensuing kickoff to the Forest Lake 34-yard line, East Ridge quickly made it 40-7 with a five-running-play drive, capped by an 8-yard touchdown scamper by London. The Raptors finished the half with another touchdown – a six-yard pass from Green to senior fullback Tyler Moe.
In the second half, East Ridge made it 54-7 after sophomore Josh Knazze punched home a 3-yard touchdown run and senior quarterback Alex Johnson connected with senior receiver Derek Decker for the two point conversion. Forest Lake tacked on a touchdown late to complete the scoring at 54-14.
In the win, Green and London didn’t play at all in the second half and senior offensive lineman Matt Kelly only played one series.
East Ridge totaled 288 yards of offense in the game – 141 yards passing and 147 rushing. Green was 8-for-13 passing for 106 yards and two touchdowns and London ran 14 times for 86 yards, three rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. Senior receiver Lucas Berry and Kamrath each caught two passes for yards.
“I think this was a huge win for us,” Kamrath said.
Next, East Ridge faces 5-4 Eastview, which blew out Park in the Class 6A, Section 3 playoff opener. Eastview, the fourth seed, won 42-14 over the fifth-seeded Wolfpack.
“It’s a big game for us,” Pendino said. “Both of my kids graduated from Eastview, so I’ve seen them played a number of times. That’s probably one of the best conferences in 6A football from top to bottom. It’ll be a challenge. I know coach Sherwin does a great job over there. They’re very, very well-coached. Eastview is a very good football team, I can tell you that.”
With the new 32-team “Super Section” format, teams reach the state tournament – the elite eight – with just two wins. In the state tournament, the top five teams are seeded, with the last three selected by a random draw. First round games are played on big stages at the Metrodome and the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. East Ridge, which opened in 2009, hasn’t played in a state tournament in its short history.
“I think we can go all the way,” Cobbs said, “but there are definitely some things we need to improve and get after in practice.”
“If we stick to what we’re supposed to do I think we can go pretty far,” he said. “Since we started this season I’ve felt state would be a good achievement for us.”