Thursday night

It was a game of momentum shifts as No. 1 seed Edina and No. 3 seed East Ridge battled in the Class AA state championship on Thursday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Raptors had the momentum for a good amount of time in the second half, but the Hornets won that momentum time and earned the 2-1 victory to take the state title.

"To us they were just another team," said senior co-captain Reese Dodd. "We've broken winning streaks before. Earlier in the season, Woodbury 9-0, beat them. Semifinal we broke St. Paul Central's I think it was 13-game winning streak.

"We figured if we came out, put everything on the line, play our game, we could come out on top. We were expecting our defense to hold solid, but unfortunately we couldn't hold on early in the first half and then somehow that got that second goal in and I was very surprised because that's so uncharacteristic of us."

When the game started on Thursday night, it looked to be another defensive battle as Edina and East Ridge kept stopping offensive drives on both ends. It was a scoreless game throughout the majority of the first half until a free kick happened for the Hornets at around the 22:30 mark in the first half.

Josh Tong dribbles the ball around an Edina defender on Thursday, Oct. 31, at U.S. Bank Stadium. East Ridge lost 2-1 against the Hornets in the state championship. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Josh Tong dribbles the ball around an Edina defender on Thursday, Oct. 31, at U.S. Bank Stadium. East Ridge lost 2-1 against the Hornets in the state championship. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

Edina's goalie Hank Stechmann came out of the box and took the free kick at the 50-yard line. He kicked the ball into East Ridge's box and Oscar Smythe was able to find a way to get it past goalie Nick Wagner to record the first goal of the game.

That goal started the momentum streak for the Hornets as East Ridge kept fighting to find an opportunity to score, but wasn't able to tie the game in the first half.

Coming out for the second half, Edina still had that momentum and carried it for the majority of the second half until East Ridge was able to tie the game at about the 26:30 mark in the second half. Dodd placed the ball for a free kick and he said his coaches were telling him to kick to Alex Hager.

At first, Dodd said he was hesitant kicking it that way, but he believed in the coaches and kicked it to Hager to had a strong shot at the net. All of a sudden, Cullen Featherstone came out of nowhere and Hager was able to kick it to him for a goal and tie the game up at 1-1.

The East Ridge boys' soccer team celebrated Cullen Featherstone's goal on Thursday, Oct. 31, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors lost 2-1 to Edina in the Class AA state championship to take second place in the tournament. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
The East Ridge boys' soccer team celebrated Cullen Featherstone's goal on Thursday, Oct. 31, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors lost 2-1 to Edina in the Class AA state championship to take second place in the tournament. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

After scoring the goal, Featherstone ran over to the East Ridge student section and celebrated with them. His twin brother Brennan Featherstone came over to hug him and celebrate with his brother.

"I'll remember the friendships and the brotherhood," Brennan Featherstone said. "I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to play with these guys."

Once the Raptors scored, the momentum shifted in favor of East Ridge as the crowd came back to life and U.S. Bank Stadium had echoes of Raptors chants.

The East Ridge student section screamed and cheered as Cullen Featherstone scored the only goal for the Raptors on Thursday, Oct. 31, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors lost 2-1 to Edina to take home second place in the state tournament. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
The East Ridge student section screamed and cheered as Cullen Featherstone scored the only goal for the Raptors on Thursday, Oct. 31, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors lost 2-1 to Edina to take home second place in the state tournament. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

It seemed like everything was on East Ridge's side as they were ready to get that second goal and take the lead. About nine minutes after Cullen Featherstone's goal, Edina took back the momentum and the lead.

The Hornets had a nice shot across the field from Henry Rose that found Smythe near the goal and he was able to kick it in for his second goal of the night. After that goal, the echoes changed to Hornets chants and Edina kept that momentum for the rest of the game to win the state title.

"We had the momentum for a good period of time and I was really believing," Dodd said. "But then, we lost all momentum and it was a struggle to get it back."

Even though East Ridge lost on Thursday night, Dodd and Brennan Featherstone said they were grateful to have this experience and play at this venue. It was a memory that they'll keep in their minds for a long time.

At the beginning of the season, Dodd and Brennan Featherstone said that this year had a lot of expectations because not only did they believe they could reach these goals, but also there were a lot of seniors on the team that wanted to end on a high note.

Chris Duliere looks down the field to find an open teammate on Thursday, Oct. 31, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors lost 2-1 to Edina in the state championship to earn second place. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Chris Duliere looks down the field to find an open teammate on Thursday, Oct. 31, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors lost 2-1 to Edina in the state championship to earn second place. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

The Raptors had 11 seniors on the team this fall and all of them had played a big role into the growth of the East Ridge boys' soccer program. This season was memorable because the Raptors were able to check a lot of boxes for their goals and put this program on the map at the state tournament.

The East Ridge players and coaches were able to check out winning a conference title, winning a section title, reaching the state tournament and reaching the state championship game this season.

"Before this game we were in the locker room and we got everyone together and Brennan delivered one of the best speeches I've ever heard," Dodd said. "A lot of us were on the verge of tears because it's just this brotherhood we have and the friendship that we've grown up together."

After the loss on Thursday, there were a lot of hugs exchanged and tears cried as many seniors knew this was their last game as a Raptor. For the non-seniors, they know that the team will be very different next year with 11 seniors graduating this upcoming spring.

East Ridge will return a handful of starting players like Wagner, Cameron Kor, Josh Tong and Terrance Vu. The Raptors will be saying goodbye to many seniors on this 2019 team like the Featherstone brothers, Dodd, Miles Sitcawich, Zack Kraus, Will Johnston, Chris Duliere, Michael Bach, Evan Clemens, Drew Tovar and Eric Akuffo.

"I think we laid some solid ground work," Brennan Featherstone said. "I think the biggest thing about this team is just the culture, it's family, it's about sacrificing yourself so your teammate can look good.

"I can't think of a player on that team or player that I've played with throughout my time as a Raptor who didn't do that for me. They always sacrificed for me, so hopefully my goal as one of the captains with Reese and just as a senior in general was to get that idea across to the younger guys and I think they definitely embraced that this year. I got a lot of hope for the future East Ridge teams."

The East Ridge boys' soccer team celebrates on U.S. Bank Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 29, as the Raptors win 1-0 in a shootout against St. Paul Central in the state semifinals. The Raptors will play Edina in the state championship. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
The East Ridge boys' soccer team celebrates on U.S. Bank Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 29, as the Raptors win 1-0 in a shootout against St. Paul Central in the state semifinals. The Raptors will play Edina in the state championship. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

Tuesday night

It was a gut feeling.

That’s how East Ridge goalie Nick Wagner described his last save of Tuesday night and his most memorable save of his career.

The No. 3 seed East Ridge and unranked St. Paul Central boys’ soccer teams squared off in the state semifinals on Tuesday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

After 100 minutes of play, the score remained 0-0 which meant a shootout and penalty kicks. The score remained tied at 4-4 in the shootout after the five required players took their kicks, which meant a sudden death penalty kick.

Miles Sitcawich was able to grab the 5-4 lead in the shootout for East Ridge with St. Paul Central’s sixth player coming up for their kick.

“I just had that feeling that he's going left," Wagner said. "I just got to trust my gut... Honestly, it was a gut feeling, but a little bit of reaction too.

"I knew I had to do something for these boys because these guys do a lot for me."

East Ridge goalie Nick Wagner dives to his left to make the last save in the shootout and wins 5-4 to earn the victory for the Raptors in the state semifinals over St. Paul Central. East Ridge won 1-0 on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
East Ridge goalie Nick Wagner dives to his left to make the last save in the shootout and wins 5-4 to earn the victory for the Raptors in the state semifinals over St. Paul Central. East Ridge won 1-0 on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

Wagner made the right decision as he grabbed the ball and converted the save to win the game for the Raptors.

The East Ridge fans, student section, band and cheerleaders all went crazy in celebration after winning the shootout and the Raptors players went over to celebrate with them after huddling up on the field.

It was a memorable game for everyone, but that’s what East Ridge has done all season long.

“And a credit to St. Paul Central, they played us hard," said East Ridge head coach Anthony Bidwell. "It was a battle... we were fortunate to come out on the winning end tonight."

Senior Chris Duliere jumps over the St. Paul Central player to head the ball in East Ridge's direction on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors won 1-0 in a shootout over the Minutemen in the state semifinals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Senior Chris Duliere jumps over the St. Paul Central player to head the ball in East Ridge's direction on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors won 1-0 in a shootout over the Minutemen in the state semifinals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

For the 100 minutes prior to the shootout, the two teams played a well-rounded soccer game. Each team had opportunities to score, but the defenses were locked in on stopping any potential goal.

Bidwell said he liked the number of corner kicks that the Raptors had in the game, but obviously was hoping for at least one to lead into a goal.

The birthday boy, Reese Dodd, was determined to make sure Wagner had an easier day at goalie as the East Ridge defense wanted to shut down this offensive minded team. Dodd along with the rest of the backline were focused for all 100 minutes and made sure no ball went into the back of that net.

The East Ridge student section made signs for the boys' soccer team as the Raptors played in the state semifinals on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. East Ridge won 1-0 over St. Paul Central in a shootout. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
The East Ridge student section made signs for the boys' soccer team as the Raptors played in the state semifinals on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. East Ridge won 1-0 over St. Paul Central in a shootout. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

“I know we got a strong defense and I can rely on everybody on the field to put their work in defensively," Dodd said. "We did our research on St. Paul Central and we knew they had a strong center forward, so that was Zack and I's job to lock him up and I'd say we did that pretty well.

"They had some strong guys in the midfield and that's where Brennan and Miles come in and they just got to do their job to lock them down and hopefully everything goes right we just keep the ball out of the net."

The shootout started on the offensive end as the first six shots went into the net. Cameron Kor, Alex Hager and Michael Bach made the first three shots for the Raptors to make it a 3-3 tie.

Then, Zack Kraus came up for East Ridge and kicked the ball off the top cross bar to give St. Paul Central an opportunity to take the lead and control late in the shootout.

Wagner came out though and showed his skills as a goalie and stopped the shot to keep it a tie heading to the fifth kicker.

The East Ridge student section was packed with the color white as the Raptors had a whiteout on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors won 1-0 in a shootout to St. Paul Central in the state semifinals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
The East Ridge student section was packed with the color white as the Raptors had a whiteout on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors won 1-0 in a shootout to St. Paul Central in the state semifinals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

“When that happened, Zack came back and I was trying to comfort him," Dodd said. "We've had Nick's back all year, we protected him. Now, he's going to protect us and I knew he was going to save it and he did."

Dodd helped out the Raptors with a goal in the fifth kick, but St. Paul Central tied it up with a goal made as well. This brought in a new group of five players to determine a winner. Instead of all five players having the opportunity to kick, it went to a sudden death.

If the score of the shootout altered at all after each player, then the game would end.

Sitcawich said the team practices penalty kicks at the end of every practice. This helps them establish who is in the top five for kickers and who’s in the second group of five.

Senior Miles Sitcawich celebrates after scoring his penalty kick on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium as the Raptors win 1-0 in the shootout over St. Paul Central in the state semifinals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Senior Miles Sitcawich celebrates after scoring his penalty kick on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium as the Raptors win 1-0 in the shootout over St. Paul Central in the state semifinals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

Sitcawich wasn’t in the top five, but was placed in the second five. He told the group that if no one wanted to take the shot after the first five went, he’d be willing to go up there for the team.

Once it was tied up after the five players, Cullen Featherstone looked over to Sitcawich and asked, “Miles, do you want to take it?”

Sitcawich started making the long walk from the center of the field to the goal. During that walk, it hit him as he started to realize the pressure that was placed on this kick.

He kept looking at the ground and when the whistle blew, he used the laces of his shoes to blow the ball past the goalie and score. Then, Wagner did his job to save the next shot and win the game for the Raptors.

"That was actually really scary," Sitcawich said about his penalty kick. "Then, I looked down at the ball and then I just hammered it lower corner and it went in, so I was happy."

Senior Brennan Featherstone blocks out a St. Paul Central player to get into position for the ball on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors won 1-0 over the Minutemen in a shootout at the state semifinals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Senior Brennan Featherstone blocks out a St. Paul Central player to get into position for the ball on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors won 1-0 over the Minutemen in a shootout at the state semifinals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

Even though it was a memorable game for the East Ridge players, they aren't done yet this season. The Raptors wanted to reach the state championship since the beginning of the season and also win the championship.

The only team in their way from reaching that goal is No. 1 seed Edina, who defeated No. 4 seed Minneapolis Washburn on Tuesday with a 2-0 score. The Hornets are 21-0 this season and have been ranked No. 1 the majority of the season.

They've allowed 12 goals this season and have scored 68 goals. Edina hasn't allowed a goal to be scored throughout the section or state tournament.

The Raptors understand it'll be a battle, but they're ready to give that first loss to the Hornets this season.

Junior Josh Tong uses his head to pass the ball to an East Ridge teammate on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors earned the 1-0 victory in a shootout over St. Paul Central in the state semifinals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Junior Josh Tong uses his head to pass the ball to an East Ridge teammate on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Raptors earned the 1-0 victory in a shootout over St. Paul Central in the state semifinals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

"I think they're beatable," Sitcawich said. "We tied Washburn 1-1 and we were leading that game 1-0 the whole time until the last few minutes when Washburn scored, so I think although Edina's record is impressive, if we come out and play our game like St. Paul Central is just as good as Edina and I think we have a really good chance."

East Ridge will take on Edina in the state championship game for Class AA on Thursday, Oct. 31, at 5:30 p.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium. A ceremony will follow the game to present first-place and second-place medals and trophies to each of the teams.