Football: Raptors' rally falls short in 6A playoffs
The season came down to one play for the East Ridge football team in Friday’s Class 6A section championship game at home against Champlin Park.
The Raptors made a furious rally from a 21-point deficit with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to force one last shot to tie the game on a two-point conversion. But the pass attempt fell incomplete with just one second left on the clock, and Champlin Park held on for a 35-33 victory in section playoffs.
When reflecting on the two talented teams, East Ridge head coach Dan Fritze said it was no surprise the game came down to just a few plays.
“Their offense is really talented and dangerous,” Fritze said about Champlin Park. “They’re just a really good team. You don’t know how things are going to go. There are a lot of turnovers, a lot of crazy things that happen. Someone’s got to lose; someone’s got to win.”
Champlin Park built its second-half lead with receiving touchdowns by Cameron Witt and Marcus Hill. Another rushing touchdown by Romello Adkins gave the Rebels a 35-14 lead with just seven minutes remaining in the game.
While some teams would have thrown in the towel facing a 21-point deficit, the Raptors were not ready to give up just yet.
“Our only thoughts in the huddle were keep fighting,” tight end Zach Bennett said. “That’s all we’d say. I know that’s what I tried to do, and the rest of the team did, too.”
The comeback started with a five-yard rushing touchdown by Dominik London. East Ridge converted an onside kick, and Ty Okada rushed 17 yards for another touchdown to reduce the deficit to just eight points with 3:38 left in the game.
The East Ridge defense halted Champlin Park on the next drive for one final shot at tying the game. The offense marched the ball 74 yards down the field before London’s second rushing touchdown of one yard gave the Raptors a chance to tie the game with just one second left.
While many of the players were disappointed to see the game end on a missed two-point conversion, they also credited their effort to rally.
“Anything can happen, you’ve just got to keep your head up and believe in your teammates and your coaches,” London said. “It’s the best way to lose. We could have easily been down by three touchdowns, just hang our heads and give up. But we didn’t.”
London led the Raptors by scoring two touchdowns on Friday. Jaron Pittman and Okada added rushing touchdowns, and Bennett also scored on a 24-yard reception.
After missing a few games earlier this year with an ankle injury, London said he felt about “85 percent” healthy for the section playoff game.
“There were some cuts I couldn’t do still because it hurt a lot,” he said. “But for the most part, I was back.”
The East Ridge football team fell short of the state tournament one year after losing in the Class 6A championship game. The Raptors hoped to have another shot at the state tournament again, but a hard fought win for Champlin Park forced the end of the season.
“There are so many things that I’m going to bring with me,” said Bennett, one of 32 seniors on the roster. “I’ll take off the pads, but I won’t take off my football memories and things like that.”