If East Ridge can keep their close-game magic going tonight at home against Stillwater, the Raptors could have two firsts this season.
They will have beaten Stillwater for their first time in school history. The Ponies beat the Raptors 33-6 in their only meeting last year. In addition, a Raptor win increases the team’s chances of their first-ever Suburban East Conference football championship. The Raptors finished second in 2010 when they went 7-3 overall.
A possible title run became more realistic when the Ponies stunned the once unbeaten Mounds View Mustangs last week, 17-14. It leaves a three-way tie for first with Mounds View, Stillwater and White Bear Lake sitting at 4-1. The Mustangs and Bears face each other tonight.
That leave only one team with a 5-1 record, which means the Raptors have a chance with a win tonight. The Raptors also close the season with the Bears on October 17. In addition, the Raptors will likely need the Bears to beat the Mustangs because the Mustangs have Forest Lake (0-5) and Park of Cottage Grove (1-4) on their remaining schedule.
The Raptors have shown they can be a contender in this conference in recent weeks. They edged Woodbury 28-26 on Sept. 21 and then pulled out a road win at Hastings, 34-31 last Friday. The Raptors also stuck close to the Mustangs in a 10-7 loss on Sept. 14, and the Raptors only lost by two score against Cretin-Derham Hall in their season opener.
Tonight will provide another big test for the Raptors. The Ponies have the third-rated passing attack in the conference, and they rank fifth among conference teams in defense.
Ponies offensive players also take good care of the football with only seven turnovers this season.
The Raptors defense will need to watch for Ponies running back Nick Anderson, who has 602 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Raptors special teams will have to key on Nate Ricci, who has returns punts for an average of 29 yards per return and has one TD this season.
Another big game for Raptors running back Nick Leach will be key for a win. He had two rushing TDs last week with 201 yards on 30 carries. He scored the go-ahead TD at Hastings in the fourth quarter.
Cutting back penalties will also be a key for the Raptors. They had seven at Hastings last week.
A faster start for both the passing game and the defense can make a big difference tonight as well. The Raiders scored two TDs last week on 80-plus plays, and the Raptors struggled to move the ball in the first half. However, they did catch fire with two quick scores, and quarterback Seth Green did throw for three TDs.
The game kicks off at the Nest at 7 p.m. A broadcast of the game can be followed at http://www.ihigh.com/school24967/broadcast_239311.html?silverlight=1