Raider football team wins over East Ridge, 9-0Now that’s more like it! On Friday night, the Hastings football team was in another close game, this time with East Ridge. This time, though, the Raiders came out on top. Hastings won, 9-0. The Raiders are now 1-4 on the season.
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
Now that’s more like it! On Friday night, the Hastings football team was in another close game, this time with East Ridge. This time, though, the Raiders came out on top. Hastings won, 9-0. The Raiders are now 1-4 on the season.
“It was as fun a locker room as we’ve seen in quite some time,” Hastings coach Dana Strain said. “The kids really enjoyed it. It made the whole weekend quite a bit more enjoyable. It was good for the kids to get rewarded like that.”
The two teams were scoreless well into the fourth quarter. After a Hastings drive stalled, punter Mike Rodriguez came up big, dropping a punt inside East Ridge’s 10 yard line. Fellow Raider Tate Sykes had raced down the field, located the punt and then downed it at the two yard line. The punt and Sykes’ play turned out to be huge.
Two plays later, Hastings defensive lineman Danny Anderson tackled an East Ridge ballcarrier in the end zone to record a safety. Hastings took a 2-0 lead on the play and East Ridge had to kick the ball off. The Raptors kicked the ball out of bounds, giving the Raiders great field position.
“That was a huge turn of momentum – first we get the two-point lead, then we get the ball back and on their side of the 50,” Strain said. “After that safety, we really turned it on.”
Hastings made the Raptors pay, marching down field and scoring 11 plays later. Tyler Mellick had a big 25-yard run and then scored from one yard out and P.J. Piotrowski kicked the extra point to give Hastings the nine-point lead.
Great play by the offensive line made the drive possible, Strain said.
“Our offensive line really, really performed well after that safety,” Strain said. “We just ran it right at East Ridge. We would, literally, get four or five yards a crack. Tyler ran hard behind the line, and Tate ran hard, too. That was the best our offensive line has looked all year. They were out there pushing people around.”
After Hastings went up 9-0, the Raiders kicked off to East Ridge, and the defense came up big again, stopping the Raptors and getting the ball back just a minute later. The Hastings offense did the rest, picking up first downs and eventually running the clock out.
“We knew we just had to play a good game,” Strain said. “We knew if we did that, we’d be OK. In the past, we’ve made just enough minor mistakes to cause us to fall short. We didn’t do that this game. We didn’t have any turnovers. We didn’t have any breakdowns defensively that led to any big plays. The kids got better from what we’ve seen in the past, and that’s the goal – to get better every week.”
Hastings had trouble moving the ball on the Raptors, especially through the first three quarters.
“You have to give credit to East Ridge,” Strain said. “They’re a lot like us – they haven’t won a lot of games, but they’ve been in every game, and their defense is really good. They don’t give up a lot of points. They’re a solid defense. We had to continue to search for an answer in the run game, and we finally found it after that safety.”
Mellick finished the game with 82 yards on 23 carries, and Sykes had 50 yards on 13 carries.
Through the air, Hastings struggled. Quarterback Aaron Stoneberg completed just four of 20 pass attempts for 30 yards. Ellis Williams, Jayson Bauer and Sykes had receptions on the night.
Several big plays helped keep the shutout intact. Zach Mellick had a big interception deep in Hastings territory in the first half. The defense also came up big with a stop on fourth down inside their own 20 yard line in the first half.
Early on, East Ridge had luck moving the ball on the Raiders, but that quickly changed.
“After their third series, where Zach had that interception, we really took control defensively,” Strain said. “We didn’t allow much to get going after that.”
Strain said the defensive line play really stuck out. Tory Behny had a nice night, even recording an interception. Aaron Karnick and Jake Swenson were “excellent,” Strain said, and Anderson “had a really big game, too.”
Sykes played on both sides of the football and even helped out on special teams.
East Ridge gained just 201 yards of offense on the night.
Hastings plays host to Park at 7 p.m. Friday in the homecoming game. Park has an 0-5 record on the season.
“They’ve got a brand new head coach, and I know they’re excited about some of the things they’re doing and the direction they are headed,” Strain said. “They’re 0-5, but they’re still a dangerous team. We have to continue to focus on playing well. If we do that, we’ll have a good chance to win. Certainly, it isn’t going to be a gimme.”
Winning the homecoming game would obviously be nice for the Raiders, but winning Friday night’s game also helps make the game special, Strain said.
“It’s a fun week for the kids – we have things going on all week long,” he said. “One of our coaches made the comment that it’s nice to win homecoming, but it’s almost just as nice to win the one the week before, so the kids can go around with smiles on their faces all week long.”
Quarterback Kyle Fritz leads Park. He has completed 71 of 159 passing attempts for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns so far this season. His favorite target is D’monte Farley, who has 19 catches for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
On the ground, Park is led by Dylan Smallidge, who has six touchdowns on the season. He has gained 404 yards on 70 carries for an average of 5.8 yards per carry.
Park and Hastings have had three common opponents so far this season.
Park lost to Roseville, 48-23. Hastings lost to Roseville, 17-14.
Park lost to Woodbury, 39-13. Hastings lost to Woodbury, 29-23.
Park lost to Cretin-Derham Hall, 55-7. Hastings lost to C-DH, 27-13.
Several Hastings players are among the conference leaders when it comes to statistics.
Wide receiver Ellis Williams leads the league in both receptions (26) and yards (455). He has four touchdowns on the season.
Tyler Mellick has gained 329 yards on 87 carries for an average of 3.8 yards per carry. He has four touchdowns.
Quarterback Aaron Stoneberg ranks fourth in the league for passing yards. He has completed 58 of 126 attempts (46 percent) for 678 yards and four touchdowns.
Rodriguez ranks fourth in the league for punting. He has an average of 34 yards per punt.
Jesse Green and Williams are among the league’s best kickoff returners in terms of average. Green is averaging 25.2 yards per return and Williams is at 22.