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Football: Overtime play halts East Ridge in opener

Running back Dominik London (28) finds a hole in the Lakeville North defense during the first half of Thursday's home opener at East Ridge. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)

The East Ridge football team had a decision to make after quarterback Ty Okada scored a 10-yard rushing touchdown in overtime to pull within one point of Lakeville North in the home opener Thursday.

Lakeville North scored a touchdown on the first possession of the overtime with a three-yard run by Wade Sullivan. The Panthers converted an extra point kick, meaning East Ridge had to decide whether to attempt an extra point to force a second overtime or go for the victory on a two-point conversion.

The Raptors decided to go for it.  But the wildcat formation pass up the middle was intercepted by linebacker Reid Saarela, sealing a 24-23 comeback victory for Lakeville North.

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After seeing running back Sullivan push the Lakeville North offense down the field in the second half and overtime, East Ridge head coach Dan Fritze said it made sense to go for the win.

“Our defense was struggling to stop number 21 (Sullivan),” Fritze said. “For us, we had a better chance of making a two-point conversion than stopping them on three plays. It’s just a calculation.”

The play was set out of the wildcat formation, with a wide receiver lining up at quarterback.

The diving interception sealed the victory for Lakeville North.

“It was just a wildcat jump pass, and their linebacker, he made a great play,” Fritze said.

East Ridge looked like it was going to run away with the game on Thursday as it took a 17-0 lead going into halftime. Will Walker scored on a one-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, and Dominik London broke a few tackles for a 12-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds left in the first half. Grant Ryerse also knocked down a field goal in the first quarter.

The East Ridge football team lost most of its starters on the offensive line from last season. But on Thursday, that did not seem to matter in the 17-point first half.

“The O-line did tremendous,” London said. “At the beginning of the year I was kind of scared because we had a lot of guys graduate, but they did amazing. I can’t be more proud of anything. I might get them some doughnuts. They are great guys.”

Lakeville North started its comeback in the third quarter on a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Reed Smith to Trevor Schermann. Dylan Smith delivered with a field goal early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 17-17.

Fritze credited adjustments by Lakeville North in the second half for stalling the Raptors’ offense.

“They made an adjustment on defense, and we had two three-and-outs to start the half,” Fritze said. “Momentum shifts. By the time we adjusted in the fourth quarter, it was a tie game.”

The Raptors tried to stay upbeat after the overtime loss dropped them to 0-1 on the season. After all, Lakeville North defeated East Ridge at the start of last season, and the Raptors followed by winning the next 11 games of the season.

“I was just extremely proud of how we played today,” said senior Michael Remke, who intercepted a pass in the first half. “Every loss hurts. Use it as motivation for next week.”

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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