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East Ridge football: Leach, Raptors roll over Roseville

East Ridge senior linebacker Brad Simonson celebrates one of his three sacks in the Raptors’ 42-19 win over Roseville on the road Friday. (Bulletin photo by Patrick Johnson)1 / 2
Senior running back Nick Leach had a second-straight 200-yard performance in the win over Roseville. Leach ran for 206 yards and four touchdowns against the Raiders. (Bulletin photo by Patrick Johnson) 2 / 2

Off an upset win over Cretin-Derham Hall, Roseville was hoping to surprise for a second straight week against bourgeoning Suburban East Conference power East Ridge, but the Raptors said uh, uh.

Behind another 200-yard night by senior running back Nick Leach and a hard-hitting, play-making defense, East Ridge earned a convincing 42-19 win over the Raiders in Roseville.

“Being on the road for the first time we had to start strong,” East Ridge head coach Mike Pendino said. “We didn’t end last year on the road very well. We’ve talked about that a lot this year. The kids played well for being on the road for the first time tonight.”

East Ridge (2-0; 2-0 SEC) was ranked fifth in the state by this past week – the first time the Raptors have been in the top 10 in school history – but Pendino said his club isn’t resting on its laurels.

“We’re not paying any attention to the rankings right now,” he said. “The ranking don’t mean anything until November.”

The Raptors have now outscored their opponents 90-34 to start the season, but Kelly isn’t ready to buy into the hype yet.

“We have to go out and show that we’re fifth,” he said. “That was given to us, but we still need to earn that spot in my opinion. I think we have some work to do to get there still.”

In the win, East Ridge punched Roseville (1-1; 1-1 SEC) in the mouth early, then took control of the game in the second half in the lopsided win. Fresh off a 228-yard rushing game in last week’s season-opening win over White Bear Lake, Leach led the way in the win over the Raiders, running for 206 yards and four touchdowns. Leach led the SEC in rushing yards as a junior.

“I feel like we played pretty well,” East Ridge senior offensive lineman Matt Kelly said. “We gotta make the little plays. We give (Leach) holes, but he makes us look good too. It’s not all us, Leach is a good running back.”

In the game, the Raptors received the ball first and promptly grabbed a 7-0 lead. The Raptors marched down the field on their opening drive, running eight plays in 2 minutes, 46 seconds, capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Leach.

Roseville then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, handing the Raptors the ball on their own 27-yard line. Just over three minutes later, East Ridge was in the end zone again – this time it was senior fullback Austin Kamrath lunging over the goal line for a one-yard score, making it 14-0 after the extra point by freshman kicker Grant Ryerse.  Leach converted two key third downs on the scoring drive.

Roseville struck back, however, as senior quarterback Jacques Perra connected on a deep pass to senior receiver Markell Herbert for a 42-yard score, cutting the deficit to 14-7 with 1:52 remaining in the first half.

But, East Ridge wasn’t done yet.

The Raptors swiftly put together a four-play scoring drive in just 59 seconds to make it a 21-7 game. Leach had runs of 17 and 30 yards on the drive and ended it with an untouched five-yard touchdown.

Roseville started the second half with a scoring drive to cut its deficit to 21-13, boosted by another long Perra to Herbert passing play, but East Ridge scored back-to-back touchdowns to go up 35-13, putting an end to any hopes Roseville had of an upset.

Kamrath scored first, on a two-yard run, capping a 13-play drive to make it 28-13. Then, following a fumble by Roseville on its own two-yard line, Leach made it 35-13 with a two-yard plunge.

After Perra found junior receiver Jesper Horsted for a 50-yard touchdown pass, East Ridge recovered the ensuing onside kick and Leach stuck in the dagger with a 58-yard touchdown run on the very next play, making it a 42-19 game with 7:37 remaining.

It was the second time in two games East Ridge scored more than 40 points.

“Leach and Kamrath make the line look really good and Seth (Green) is throwing the ball really well,” Kelly said. “We’re moving the ball well.”

In addition to Leach’s 206 yards, sophomore quarterback Seth Green was 8-for-11 passing for 89 yards and senior receiver Xavier Cole caught three passes for 57 yards. On defense, senior linebacker Brad Simonson had three sacks and five tackles and senior linebacker Matt Davis, senior defensive back Stephen Orehosky and junior defensive back Sam Cobbs each recorded five tackles.

Simonson, who thought it was the first time he’s ever had three sacks in a game, said part of the Raptors’ game plan was to have him go after Perra, who led the conference in passing yards with 1,706 last season.

“He’s a good player,” Simonson said. “They wanted me to get in there and get to the QB. They wanted a little more blitzing from me to get him off his game. My goal coming into this game was to stop him.

We didn’t want to let him get outside. We contained him pretty well.”

East Ridge forced three turnovers against Roseville

“I thought our defense played great,” Simonson said. “I think we improved with our second game. I feel we played pretty good. We went in and did our jobs.”

Next, East Ridge travels the 3.3 miles to Woodbury High School to take on the rival Royals. The two Woodbury-based schools are tied 2-2 in their all-time series. East Ridge won last year’s battle for The Griffin, 28-26, at East Ridge. Woodbury (1-1; 1-1 SEC) is coming off a hard-fought road win over White Bear Lake.

“We’re on the road and it’s a big rivalry and anything can happen,” Pendino said. “But, our kids know it’s Woodbury week – that’s all they need to know.”

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
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