The East Ridge football team was the only No. 4 seed in the Class AAAAAA state tournament to have a winning record heading into the opening round of playoffs.
The Raptors showed that success from the regular season as they carried it into Friday's game against the No. 5 seed Osseo. It was a balanced attack with strong offensive possessions and defensive stops to form a 38-7 win over the Orioles and advance to the round of 16 next week.
"These seniors knew this game could potentially be their final home game of the season," said head coach Dan Fritze. "So these players wanted to make sure they ended their home season on a high note and I'm so proud of them tonight."
The Raptors started off the game with strong offensive possessions leading to touchdowns and giving East Ridge a big lead in the first half. KJ Moore was the lead back in throughout the first two quarters as he was untouchable leading to three rushing touchdowns and a two-point conversion to make it 22-7 at the half.
Quarterback Riley Larson also had a strong running day and finding the right lanes to record first downs and keep the drive going. The success for this strong running isn't just the vision of Larson and Moore, it takes a strong offensive line to create those lanes.
"Our offensive line has been great all season long and it continued tonight with opening lanes and protecting the pass," Larson said. "They were able to block and give me time to find a man down the field for a long passes. I always try and thank them throughout the game because they are truly amazing."
A first half focused on running shifted to passing in the second half as Brody Kriesel started showing his skills in the wide receiver position. The main aspect to Kriesel is his height and he showed it in the third quarter as Larson threw the ball up and he went up to catch it.
Larson threw a pass in the corner of the end zone and Kriesel jumped up to grab it over the Osseo cornerback to record a touchdown. Then, the next play, Kriesel tipped the ball over the defender to catch it for a two-point conversion.
"God gave me the gift of height, so I need to use it," Kriesel said while smiling. "Our balanced offense helped us tonight and I'm just happy we were able to get our last home win of the season."
Fritze added that when an offense has a player like Kriesel, they use it as much as possible. He loves the options the offense has in rushing and passing because of the talent from his running backs, quarterback, wide receivers and offensive line.
Along with a strong offense, the Raptors defense was able to shut down the Osseo offense with only seven points allowed. East Ridge had a fumble recovery, fourth down stops and five tackles for a loss.
"The defense helps us on offense to keep the momentum going and allows us to extend the lead each possession," Larson said. "They had a great night and helped get this win."
Fritze and the players agreed that they will need a well-balanced team next week when East Ridge plays the No. 1 seed Wayzata in the round of 16 in the Class AAAAAA state tournament.
The Trojans are ranked No. 1 in the state, according to the Minnesota Football Coaches Association, and hold an undefeated record this season. Wayzata defeated No. 8 seed Eagan on Friday night with a 35-7 win.
"They are, hands down, the best team in the state," Fritze said. "For us, it's just how good can we be on Monday at practice and keep building for Friday's game. We need to put ourselves in the best position against them."