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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It was a busy week for the East Ridge girls' volleyball team. East Ridge won a 3-0 match at Edina on Sept. 5 before losing at home to Class 3A's top-ranked team Eagan on Sept. 7. The Raptors finished 3-2 at the Southwest Minnesota Challenge tournament Sept. 9-10 in Marshall. East Ridge defeated Owatonna and Bloomington Jefferson to start the weekend's tournament, but the Raptors went 1-2 on Saturday in the championship bracket with losses to Lakeville North and Minneota before winning 2-0 against Wayzata.
The depth of the East Ridge cross-country teams showed on the trails of St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park on Thursday, Sept. 7. The state-ranked Red Wing girls' and boys' cross-country teams both took first place at the Dewey Minnaert Invitational, but behind them were the East Ridge boys' and girls' cross-country teams. The boys' team finished second with a team score of 85, behind Red Wing which scored a 46. The East Ridge girls' team scored 54 points, behind Red Wing's 36.
It has been an unforgiving start to the season for the Academy Force football team. The Academy Force football team is a new cooperative squad combining players from New Life Academy, Bethany Academy, Mounds Park Academy, Twin Cities Academy, St. Croix Prep Academy and Liberty Classical Academy. With a brand new program, the Force started the season by traveling to the Blake School to play cooperative team St. Paul Academy/Minnehaha Academy/Blake. After falling to SMB 41-13, the Academy Force again hit the road to Plymouth-based Providence Academy where it lost 40-0.
The East Ridge football team made some mistakes in its season opening 34-13 loss at home against Champlin Park on Thursday, Aug. 31. Sure, the Raptors made some of those mistakes in the second game of the season at Stillwater on Friday. But Jaron Pittman scored his second touchdown of the day with 6:26 left in the fourth quarter, and the Raptors held off the Ponies from there in a 17-14 victory. Head coach Dan Fritze said the Raptors battled adversity and four turnovers to win the East Metro Blue subdistrict game.
It looked like Woodbury was going to rebound from a 0-1 start to the season when Drew Pearson caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Christensen with less than one minute remaining on Friday against Roseville. Farmington shut down Woodbury’s final drive of the game in last week’s season opening 22-20 loss at WHS. But Pearson’s touchdown gave the Royals a 22-19 lead with 35 seconds left and Roseville's offense starting deep in its own territory.
The East Ridge girls' volleyball team split a pair of matches over the past week. East Ridge battled with state-ranked Lakeville North over five sets before falling to the Panthers 15-11 in the fifth on Thursday, Aug. 31, at Lakeville North. East Ridge won the first set 25-23 and the fifth set 25-20 to push the match to five sets. Kate Reimann led the Raptors with 17 kills, and Grace Whitman also had 12 kills. Stephanie Barber had 37 assists to help the East Ridge offense. East Ridge also won a four-set match at home against Eastview on Aug. 29.
The East Ridge girls' swimming and diving team is returning with enough depth to be a competitive team in 2017. The Raptors have qualified for the the Class 2A team state true team meet for the past two years, and head coach Kathy Madden said enough depth is back to make a true team section title their goal once again. "We have many new swimmers who are adding to what we feel is a pretty deep team this year," Madden said. The Raptors graduated five seniors last season, including Olivia Burleigh who who finished 10th in Class 2A state diving last fall.
Math and Science Academy freshman Tierney Wolfgram dueled with Winona Cotter's Grace Ping at the St. Olaf High School Showcase in Northfield on Thursday, Aug. 31. Ping won the girls' race with a time of 17 minutes, 45 seconds at St. Olaf College. Wolfgram was the second-place finisher as she crossed the finish line in 18:04. Wolfgram was the top finisher from area schools in the St. Olaf High School Showcase. Ping, who is also a freshman, is back at Winona Cotter after reportedly spending the last year in Utah.
The East Ridge boys' soccer team got some early attention from coaches around the state when it was ranked fourth in the Class 2A preseason rankings. But despite the Raptors' standing in the Minnesota State High School Soccer Coaching Association's preseason poll, head coach Anthony Bidwell said they have not focused too much on what people are saying. "The rankings don't really matter to us," Bidwell said.
The East Ridge cross-country teams likely will not have any problem with depth this season. Between the boys' and girls' teams, head coach Chad Cronin said the Raptors cross-country program has more than 100 runners out for the team this fall. "Our purpose on this team is to strive for excellence in all that we do," Cronin said. "In the short time since the start of the season, we can tell these student athletes have already caught that spirit. It's going to be an amazing fall of running and representing East Ridge."