Third-ranked East Ridge (4-0; 4-0 SEC) opened up a 48-6 halftime lead on the Wolfpack (1-3; 1-3 SEC) in the game, improving to 4-1 in the two teams’ head-to-head series.
“You always feel good when you’re winning football games,” East Ridge head coach Mike Pendino said. “It’s good to be 4-0. (Park) just beat what I think is a good football team in White Bear Lake last week. We came out and played pretty good tonight.”
East Ridge freshman running back Dominik London rushed for 188 yards on 11 carries (good for a 17 yards per carry average) in the win. London, who had 149 yards in the first half alone, filled in for Nick Leach after the senior left the game in the first quarter with an apparent knee injury. Leach – the state’s leading rusher heading into the game – went down after being tackled awkwardly along Park’s sideline.
Early reports didn’t sound good for Leach, who was carted out of the stadium and taken to the hospital for evaluation.
“Leach is probably the best running back in the state,” Pendino said. “I’m not sure of the injury, but I have a feeling of what it is. It’s tough to lose Nick Leach. He’s been the heart and soul for us this year. We tell all the kids if they’re the backup they have to be ready all the time. Now we have to see what Dom can do for us.”
In the win, East Ridge sophomore quarterback Seth Green had his biggest statistical game of the season thus far. Green was 11-for-17 for 254 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone and finished 12-for-22 for 267 yards and three touchdowns in the game.
Green connected with senior wide receiver Xavier Cole on touchdowns of 65 and 52 yards in the first quarter as the Raptors jumped on Park early.
Cole had three catches for 159 yards in the first quarter and finished with five catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns.
“Homecoming is always a big one, especially against our crosstown rival Park,” Green said. “They’ve improved a lot and pushed us. They made us work hard to get the W.”
Green – who already has Division 1 scholarship offers from the University of Minnesota and Louisville – nearly doubled his numbers from the first three games in the win. He now has 631 yards and five touchdowns on the year.
“He played very well tonight, but he’s played very good all season long,” Pendino said. “We haven’t needed to throw it really, but we will. I thought the kids executed the passing game well tonight.”
East Ridge’s defense also provided first-quarter fireworks as senior linebacker Brad Simonson returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown – the first defensive touchdown in East Ridge school history.
“You always like to get out to a good start,” Pendino said. “It worked out well for us this week.”
Park performed better in the second half and ended up being the first team this season to score 20 or more points on East Ridge.
Park freshman quarterback Brandon Alt and senior receiver Elias Arlington continued to form a formidable tandem in the Wolfpack's dynamic spread offense.
Alt was 25-for-44 in the game with 309 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, while Arlington caught eight passes for 160 yards.
“We came back in the second half,” Alt said. “We tried to look at the scoreboard as 0-0 and tried our best.”
Park receivers Jeb Melson and Kenny Gay also made big plays for the Wolfpack.
The 6-foot, 5-inch Melson caught six balls for 63 yards and a touchdown. Gay grabbed five passes for 31 yards and one very impressive touchdown on an over-the-shoulder catch in the corner of the end zone, going Chris Carter-style keeping his feet in bounds.
“We lost pretty bad tonight, but we gave it all we got,” Alt said. “They’re a great team. We tried to just keep it together and play as a team. When we play our game we can do good things.”
With East Ridge’s backups in, Park scored back-to-back touchdowns to make it a 48-20 game with about two minutes remaining in the third quarter. East Ridge re-inserted their starters on offense on the ensuing drive and put together a seven-play touchdown drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown run by senior fullback Austin Kamrath making the score 55-20 East Ridge with 11:15 remaining in the game, ending any threat.
“I feel good about where we are,” Green said. “We’re improving, but we have a long way to go. I know I can improve in many aspects. We need to keep working.”
East Ridge has its toughest matchup of the year next Friday as it hosts Cretin-Derham Hall (2-2; 2-2 SEC). The Raptors have yet to beat the Raiders, who won 20-7 at Mounds View on Friday.
Meanwhile, Park will be at Roseville. The Raiders (3-1; 3-1 SEC) crushed Woodbury 48-7 on Friday.
“This is our first big test this year,” Pendino said. “We’ll see how it goes. They’re an excellent football team, they’re well coached and they have great players. We’re just going to play the best we can and see how it goes.”