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East Ridge soccer: Raptors top rival Park, stay undefeated

East Ridge’s Keelan Spencer tries to play a ball past Park’s Dalton Kellen Thursday in Cottage Grove. The Raptors came away with a 2-0 victory with two second-half goals. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt)

Park stymied the East Ridge boys soccer team through the first half Thursday in Cottage Grove, but the Raptors made the necessary adjustments on the fly to remain undefeated on the season with a 2-0 victory over their district and Suburban East Conference rival.

East Ridge (4-0, 1-0 SEC) got goals from sophomore Austin Bunnell in the 58th minute and 10 seconds later a goal from junior Zach Boerjan to cap an impressive stretch of play that vaulted the Raptors to their fourth consecutive victory to open the season.

Boerjan now has four goals on the season and his latest came in the blink of an eye. After the restart following Bunnell’s first goal of the season, Boerjan broke free for a breakaway and buried a shot past Wolfpack goalkeeper Nick Perry.

East Ridge sophomore Connor Stevenson assisted on both goals. Stevenson’s free kick set up Bunnell’s goal after Perry made the initial save for Park (2-2, 0-1 SEC) but the rebound found the foot of Bunnell for a 1-0 lead. Stevenson then set up Boerjan for the breakaway after the kickoff following the goal.

The Raptors struggled through the first half to get a coordinated attack against the Wolfpack through the middle of the field, but adjusted in the second half with passing combinations that led to cracks in the Park defense for more dangerous scoring chances.

“We made a few adjustments in the middle and we had better spacing, better pace of play, especially when we’re moving off the back line,” East Ridge head coach Anthony Bidwell said.

The passing combinations and play off the backline resulted in better possession for the Raptors and several more scoring opportunities.

The Wolfpack had chances in the first half on counterattacks and sustained pressure at times, but few chances proved dangerous.

“There were moments where the attack in the final third didn’t work and it was foiled and they played the big ball and in recovery the center mids were inconsistent,” Bidwell said. “I’m really pleased with how they picked it up in the second half and adjusted.”

East Ridge will continue conference play Thursday, Sept. 12, against Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.

—Nick Gerhardt