St. Michael-Albertville opens 6A era with impressive win over Mounds View

St. Michael-Albertville opens 6A era with impressive win over Mounds View.

 

y NATE GOTLIEB, Special to the Star Tribune
08/31/2017, 9:00pm CDT

The Knights, who moved up from Class 5A, scored five first-half touchdowns en route to a 45-21 victory.

Mitchell Kartes (20) breaks out of the backfield and heads to the end zone. Kartes scored twice in St. Michael-Albertville’s 45-21 victory over Mounds View in the Knight’s inaugural game in Class 6A. Photo by Cheryl Myers, SportsEngine

Years of playing top teams in Class 5A had prepared St. Michael-Albertville to jump to Class 6A, Knights coach Jared Essler said.

His team proved that Thursday, scoring five touchdowns in the first half in a season-opening victory over Mounds View.

Junior Desean Phillips rushed for three scores and senior Mitchell Kartes for two as the Knights rolled to a 45-21 victory at Mounds View.

“We all flew around, played our hearts out,” said Kartes, whose team led 38-0 at halftime. “We kind of tried to make a statement, like the jump’s not as big as what everyone’s trying to make it out to be.”

The move came because of increased enrollment at St. Michael-Albertville, just two years after the Knights won a 5A state title.
Instead of playing nearby rivals such as Elk River and Rogers, they will face 6A powers such as Blaine and Totino-Grace, the reigning state champion.

“I know we’ll be challenged,” Essler said. “I know it’ll be a great test for us, but that’s why we made the move.”

Mounds View played its first game under new coach Aaron Moberg, who took over from 16-year coach Jim Galvin. The team returned just a handful of starters from last year’s 7-3 squad.

Seniors Alex Relling, Souayang Xiong and Sam Mesfin scored for the Mustangs.

Junior Desean Phillips (33) slips into the end zone for his first of three touchdowns for the Knights. Photo by Cheryl Myers, SportsEngine

First report

St. Michael-Albertville scored five first-half touchdowns and rolled to a 45-21 victory over Mounds View on Thursday in the Knights’ Class 6A debut.

Junior Desean Phillips rushed for three scores and senior Mitchell Kartes rushed for two for the Knights, who moved to 6A this year because of increased enrollment. Senior Matthew Feldick added an interception return for a touchdown.

St. Michael-Albertville’s move up came after years of success in Class 5A, including a state title in 2015.

The game with the Mustangs marked a start of a schedule for the Knights that doesn’t include traditional rivals such as Elk River and Rogers. Instead, the team will play 6A powers such as Blaine and Totino-Grace, the reigning state champion.

The Knights were 8-2 last season, losing to twice Elk River, but returned several notable players this year. That included Kartes, a longtime starter who has committed to North Dakota State.

Mounds View was playing its first game under new coach Aaron Moberg, who took over from 16-year coach Jim Galvin. The team returned just a handful of starters from last year’s 7-3 squad.

Seniors Alex Relling, Souayang Xiong and Sam Mesfin each rushed for a touchdown for the Mustangs.

Youthful Totino-Grace survives Cretin-Derham Hall 13-12 with late rally

Youthful Totino-Grace survives Cretin-Derham Hall 13-12 with late rally.

By JIM PAULSEN, Star Tribune
08/31/2017, 10:00pm CDT

The defending Class 6A champions overcame a 10-point deficit with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Cretin-Derham Hall’s Jaylen Newton ran for a first down in the first half of the Raiders’ game with Totino-Grace Thursday at O’Shaughnessy Stadium at the University of St. Thomas. Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

Totino-Grace coach Jeff Ferguson was worried, and with good reason.

His Eagles are the defending Class 6A champions, but that was last year. This year’s team is as raw as any he’s ever coached.

“We’re more inexperienced than I can ever remember in my career,” he said. “We’re starting five sophomores. On defense.”

Totino-Grace’s young Eagles — Eaglets? — spent the first half figuring things out, then played the second half like the Totino-Grace teams of the past, rallying past Cretin-Derham Hall for a 13-12 season-opening victory.

Cretin-Derham Hall owned the first half, running 42 offensive plays to Totino-Grace’s 12, outgaining the Eagles 161-50 and taking a 10-0 lead. What’s more, the Raiders scored a touchdown 11 seconds before halftime, the kind of thing that can drain an opponent of confidence.

“That was a killer,” Ferguson said.

Instead, the Eagles came out in the second half and played much more like their usual selves. They shut down Cretin-Derham Hall’s running game, which had been moving with consistency, and started to generate a little offense of their own.

Sam Hanson put Totino-Grace on the scoreboard with a 32-yard burst up the middle early in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 10-6.

The Eagles’ defense did its part on the next possession, forcing Cretin-Derham Hall to punt from its own end zone.

Totino-Grace proceeded to go 40 yards in five plays, benefiting from a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and a 13-yard pass from quarterback Peyton Schuler to Nate Schutz to the Raiders 4-yard line. Kameron White scored from a yard out three plays later to cap the comeback and give the Eagles the lead for good.

Totino-Grace took a deliberate safety on the game’s last play for the final score.

“With a young team like ours, we knew we had to keep grinding,” said Hanson, a senior running back. “We knew we had to keep fighting and play TG football.”

“I was curious how this team would come out,” Ferguson said. “These guys were super nervous. I’m thrilled for them. This was a good test against a great team.”

First report

Sometimes, it’s good to be the champs.

Defending Class 6A champion Totino-Grace survived a first half that could generously be called rough, didn’t panic and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to rally past Cretin-Derham Hall 13-10.

The game Thursday at the University of St. Thomas was the first-ever matchup between to the two Catholic school powers,

Totino-Grace went into the game with huge holes to fill on both sides of the ball, most notably in the backfield, and spent the first half working out the kinks.

The Eagles, trailing 10-0, finally got things going in the fourth quarter. Sam Hanson scored on a 32-yard burst up the middle to cut the lead to 10-6. The Eagles then pushed Cretin-Derham Hall back to the shadow of its own end zone before forcing a sort punt.

Totino-Grace took full advantage of the wonderful field position, going 40 yards in five plays – buoyed by an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Cretin-Derham Hall – and took the lead on a one-yard dive by Kameron White.

Cretin-Derham Hall moved into Totino-Grace territory on its next possession but turned the ball over on downs at the Eagles’ 22.  Totino-Grace took a deliberate safety on the game’s final play for the game’s final score.

Cretin-Derham Hall dominated the first half. The Raiders took the opening kickoff and went 67 yards in 17 plays, running nearly six minutes off the clock before the drive stalled at the Totino-Grace 8-yard line. Louis Rottjakob kicked a 25-yard field goal to give Cretin-Derham Hall a 3-0 lead.

Neither team mounted a serious threat for much of the rest of the first half, but the Raiders continued to dominate the line of scrimmage. Totino-Grace managed just 50 yards of total offense before halftime – half of that on a single pass play – and suffered the added indignity of having two potential turnovers waved off.

Despite a clear advantage on the field, Cretin-Derham’s lead remained just three points until the final minute of the half. Totino-Grace, which had just forced Cretin to turn the ball over on downs deep in its own end of the field, fumbled with 20 seconds left before halftime. The Raiders turned the gift into points two plays later on a 23-yard fade from QB Danny Callahan to 6-foot-4 receiver Peter Udoibok in the corner of the end zone.

Top Games: CDH begins season with test against Totino-Grace

Top Games: CDH begins season with test against Totino-Grace.

Cretin-Derham Hall will be an underdog when welcoming reigning Class 6A state champion Totino-Grace for the season opener on Thursday. Photo by Rick Orndorf, SportsEngine

The start of high school football is upon Minnesota. The first night under the lights often features some nerves, as well as some curiosity from fans who wonder how their favorite team will look this season.

Cretin-Derham Hall gets an opportunity to prove itself — and possibly provide some confidence for its fans — in the season opener as it hosts perennial powerhouse and reigning Class 6A state champion Totino-Grace at the University of St. Thomas.

While the Eagles have won three titles and placed second in the state tournament since the start of their impressive run in 2010, the once-dominant Raiders haven’t challenged for a state title since winning it all in 2009. Cretin-Derham Hall, however, has maintained its regular-season success, recording seven or more victories each year.

This matchup between a team determined to pull off an upset and rekindle its past postseason glory with a win against a perennial house is worthy of being our first Top Game of the Week this season.

DateThu Aug 31, 2017

Totino-Grace vs. Cretin-Derham Hall

7:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 31

Besides featuring teams with plenty of championship pedigree, Thursday’s contest offers an interesting match on the sidelines, as last season’s coaches association Coach of the Year Jeff Ferguson and Totino-Grace face a Cretin-Derham Hall team led by former NFL quarterback Brooks Bollinger.

The Eagles graduated 23 seniors last season, but Ferguson has been through this drill and always come back strong. Totino-Grace looks to Sam Hanson to step up in the backfield following a junior season in which he rushed for 423 yards and four touchdowns as a backup.

Bollinger’s Raiders have had to replace several players as well. The top returner in the backfield is senior Terrance Nash, who ran for 455 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago.

Mounds View football head coach resigns to become school’s activities director

Mounds View football head coach resigns to become school’s activities director.

Jim Galvin, who coached at the school for 26 years, replaces Bob Madison, who is taking a position with the Minnesota State High School League.

Longtime football coach Jim Galvin has been named as the school’s new activities director, the school announced Thursday.

Galvin, who led the Mustangs program for 16 seasons and led them to state seven times, replaces Bob Madison, who announced earlier this month he was joining the Minnesota State High School League as an associate director.

Galvin, a 26-year teacher and coach with Mounds View Public Schools, will vacate his most recent positions as varsity head football coach and physical education teacher.

“Inside and outside the classroom, Jim has dedicated his career to ensuring students remain connected to their schools, to their teachers and coaches and to each other,” Mounds View principal Stephanie Bruggers said in a prepared statement. “He’s exceptionally qualified to continue our strong tradition of excellence.”

Galvin will begin his new role on July 1. School and district officials will be interviewing to fill the head coach and physical education teaching vacancies.

Relling rallies Mounds View in upset of Cretin-Derham Hall

By Trevor Squire, SportsEngine
10/19/2016, 3:15pm CDT

Mounds View’s Alex Relling (28) drags Cretin-Derham Hall tacklers into the end zone while scoring the first of three touchdowns in the second half to lead the Mustangs to a 21-7 victory Wednesday at the University of St. Thomas. Photo by Korey McDermott,

Mounds View’s backup fullback Alex Relling had as many carries as fingers on one of his hands heading into Wednesday’s regular-season finale against Cretin-Derham Hall.

Though he had plenty of game experience as the leading rusher on the Mustangs junior varsity team, Relling still had little time to prepare for his first varsity start on a short week.

His new role was a result of an injury to starting fullback and leading rusher Xavier Miles in last week’s win against Woodbury, but Relling looked like a veteran with an impressive performance that helped catapult the Mustangs to a 21-7 upset over the Raiders at the University of St. Thomas.

“A lot of guys got banged up last week, and to see Alex Relling step up like that, it was amazing,” senior linebacker Ross Indlecoffer said.

After his team went scoreless in the first half, Relling carried Mounds View in the second, scoring three touchdowns to fuel the comeback and secure another passionate win for the Mustangs, who are ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press Class 6A state high school football poll.

It was on the final TD run that Relling really showed his mettle. With his team facing a fourth-and-2 and a little over a minute left in the game, Relling broke off a 16-yard run into the end zone.

Relling felt something take over him as he stiff-armed a defender and broke another tackle on his final and longest run of the night that capped a 25-carry, 122-yard outing for the junior.

“I thought I was going out of bounds and not going to get the first down, but I just stiff-armed (a defender) and saw I was an inch away from the end zone and just plowed through,” Relling said.

Relling’s earlier touchdowns didn’t come easy, either, as the junior twice punched through goal-line stands to record scoring runs from 3 and 1 yards out.

On his first TD run, Relling was met at the line and pushed back before taking a second stab at the wall and busting through while carrying a defender on his back.

“I got smashed back but didn’t give up. I was just looking for the end zone,” he said.

Adding an upset over the No. 6-6A Raiders (6-2, 5-2) may have clinched home-field advantage for the Mustangs in at least one game of next week’s Class 6A, Section 4 playoffs.

“It’s an incredible win,” coach Jim Galvin said. “We’ve seen (Cretin-Derham Hall) on video and they’re a very good football team. Our kids kind of hung in there. It wasn’t anything pretty.”

Stillwater handed Mounds View a 20-7 loss on Oct. 7, and the Mustangs responded by closing out the regular season with victories over two teams in the top half of the East Metro District Blue Division standings and cracking the Class 6A rankings.

Galvin said Mounds View’s recent surge isn’t a result of scheme changes or switches at any position. Instead, it is due to the kids playing hard.

That was evident early in the game, as the Mustangs held a potent Cretin-Derham Hall offense without a first down until four minutes remained in the first half. The Raiders scored their only TD of the night on the drive.

Prior to that scoring drive, Mounds View’s defense controlled the play behind Indlecoffer, who had back-to-back tackles for losses to force a turnover on downs after the Mustangs recorded a trio of three-and-outs.

“The defense came together as a brotherhood,” Indlecoffer said. “We had a great game against Woodbury and excelled and put together a better game this week.”

Charlie Etucko had two interceptions on the night, and his crucial fumble recovery on the opening drive of the second half ended a Cretin-Derham Hall possession that could have the Raiders take at least a 10-point lead.

Relling and the offensive line reciprocated that effort into bruising scoring drives to fuel the comeback.

“It’s really encouraging and we have a lot of motivation heading into next week,” Indlecoffer said of his team’s overall performance.

The Mustangs will now enjoy a long weekend to recover and prepare for the new season upcoming.

“So much to look forward to and so much energy,” Indlecoffer said. “We’re ready.”

First Report

Alex Relling’s three second-half touchdowns carried Mounds View to a 21-7 victory over Cretin-Derham Hall in the regular-season finale Wednesday night at the University of St. Thomas.

Relling’s most impressive TD was his last, a 16-yard scamper on fourth down that he broke by shedding a tackle and stiff-arming a defender before running free to the end zone with 1:09 left in the game. It capped a 122-yard rushing performance for the junior running back.

The Mustangs (6-2, 5-2) ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press Class 6A state high school football poll, forced three turnovers and held the No. 6-6A Raiders (6-2, 5-2) scoreless in the second half.

Cretin-Derham Hall quarterback Jackson Crawford completed 12 of 27 passes for 96 yards and scored the Raiders only TD on a 1-yard run late in the second quarter.

Cretin-Derham Hall quarterback Jackson Crawford with a completion during play against Mounds View on Oct. 19. Jackson ran for the Raiders’ only touchdown in a 21-7 loss. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine

With star running back sidelined, East Ridge prevails over Cretin-Derham Hall

The Raptors earned a 21-7 victory despite the absence of Dominik London, who left the game in the first quarter with an injury.

East Ridge senior quarterback Ty Okada scrambles away from Cretin-Derham Hall defenders. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine

On a night when two future Gophers struggled, East Ridge showed the depth of its talent and character.

The Raptors beat previously undefeated Cretin-Derham Hall 21-7 despite three missed field goals by Grant Ryerse and losing running back Dominik London to an ankle sprain in the first quarter.

“We faced a lot of adversity throughout the game,” junior safety T.J. Kelly said. “You have to keep your poise and stay calm, and I think we did that tonight.”

Kelly returned an interception 25 yards for a 14-0 lead, a play Raptors coach Dan Fritze called “the difference in the game.”

Cretin-Derham Hall (4-1) didn’t quit. The Raiders scored just before halftime as quarterback Jackson Crawford spun into the end zone from a yard out on fourth down.

But big plays and tough defense allowed East Ridge (4-1) to pull away after halftime. A.J. Tittle, likely the Raptors’ fastest player, sprinted around left end for an 80-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

“When he gets that corner, it’s over,” Fritze said.

“We have other athletes who can carry the ball and can make plays,” Tittle said. “We’re a team, and we don’t depend on one person.”

The Raptors defense conceded yards to Crawford but kept the Raiders out of the end zone in the second half.

“Whenever we got some momentum going on offense we shot ourselves in the foot or they made a play and we didn’t,” Cretin-Derham Hall coach Brooks Bollinger said.

David La Vaque

East Ridge’s AJ Tittle heads down field during an 80-yard touchdown run against East Metro District Blue Division rival Cretin-Derham Hall in the Raptors’ 21-7 win Friday night. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine

High school football: Forest Lake gets first win in five years

It took five years and 42 games, but Forest Lake is back in the win column.

The Rangers snapped a 41-game losing streak that dated back to Week 5 of the 2011 season with a 20-14 home win over White Bear Lake on Friday night.

Forest Lake coach Jeff Wilson called the victory “a huge step” for the program.

Wilson called the losing streak “a big monkey on our back.” Kids drifted away from football as the losses piled up for the program in recent years, making any attempt at a rebuild a challenge.

Forest Lake’s best shot at a win looked to be next year, when the Rangers move to a subdistrict filled with smaller schools.

Still, there was hope this year. While Forest Lake isn’t big in size, there are some talented athletes, particularly on defense.

“We have a real solid core of seniors that have worked really hard,” Wilson said in a phone interview. “We believe in their skills.”

There have been plenty of weeks in recent years where Wilson has heard people say ‘I’ve got a feeling,’ the streak would end that Friday. But he said this week felt different. Practice was good. This chance could be real.

It showed early, as Forest Lake (1-1) jumped out to a 14-0 lead. But White Bear Lake (0-2) rallied to tie it in the third. That’s when the doubts crept back. Would this be another near miss?

“Regardless of what anyone wants to say,” Wilson said, “your mind wants to travel back to ‘This can’t happen again.’”

It didn’t, as Forest Lake regained the lead late in the third and held on for that elusive first victory in forever.

Wilson wouldn’t believe the Rangers had won it until the final whistle. When that came, the students stormed the field.

“Their motto this year was ‘Finish the fight,’” Wilson said of his players, “and that’s what they did.”

East Ridge 24, Mounds View 14: Raptors senior running back Dominik London, a Gophers commit, ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries to lead East Ridge (1-1) past Mounds View (1-1).

Lakeville North 42, Eagan 7: Panthers running back Wade Sullivan ran for six touchdowns on Friday night — all in the first half. His longest scoring strike came from 68 yards out as Lakeville North cruised to 2-0.

South St. Paul 29, Park 26: Sam Rohrer was the hero for the Packers (2-0) on Friday night, as he kicked the game-winning 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds to push South St. Paul past Park (1-1). Packers senior quarterback Ryan Duffy accounted for four touchdowns, three of which came on the ground.

Source: High school football: Forest Lake gets first win in five years

Edina finishes hurting but happy in win over Mounds View

 

Hobbled Hornets quarterback Brock Boltmann threw for two touchdowns to inspire his teammates to a 21-6 victory.

Having just watched his receiver drop a sure fourth-down touchdown pass in a one-point game, Edina quarterback Brock Boltmann went back out with the defense.

During the ensuing Mounds View drive, Boltmann, a two-way starter, limped to the sideline. The defense forced the Mustangs to punt. Boltmann hobbled back into the game under center, hoping the fresh tape on his left ankle would hold.

A few plays later, Boltmann showed his plant foot felt well enough. He threw a touchdown pass 44 yards downfield to Evan Holm as No. 3 seed Edina pulled away for a 21-6 victory in the first round of the Class 6A tournament Friday at Edina.

Holm wasn’t finished. His 58-yard interception return for a score with 39.2 seconds left iced the victory. Seeing Boltmann fight back to deliver a big play inspired Holm to make one of his own.

“It pushes everyone else,” Holm said. “If you’ve got an injury or an ache, you want to go because he’s going to.”

Neither team went much of anywhere in the first half. Edina (4-5) scored on its second drive as Boltmann hit Parker Rickert for a 27-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Mounds View almost drew even. Ryan Nickel found Luke Swenson from 14 yards out, but the extra-point try failed.

No. 6 seed Mounds View (4-5) started the fourth quarter by turning Edina over on downs. Then Boltmann, whose father, Reed, is Edina’s head coach, was hobbled. But the Mustangs could not seize control.

“Every drive we had gave us the ability to go ahead, but we couldn’t make the big play when we had to,” Mounds View coach Jim Galvin said. “We just sputtered.”

Edina, meanwhile, exploded for a huge play. Boltmann said he felt “the defense knew I was hurt” so when the Hornets called a play-action pass “they came in and we went over the top.”

The pass gave Edina a 14-6 lead, meaning Mounds View would need a touchdown and two-point conversion to draw even. Holm dashed the Mustangs’ hopes with the interception. His instinct told him to fall down and secure the change of possession. But the open field beckoned.

Game at a glance

Key of the game: You have your choice of Evan Holm highlights. Streaking downfield, he hauled in a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from quarterback Brock Boltmann. His team leading 14-6, Holm struck again with a 58-yard interception return to ice Edina’s victory. Oh, and Holm intercepted a Mounds View pass on the final play of the game.

Quote: “I just knew I had to get taped and get back on the field. I need to be out there and leading the team.” — Edina quarterback Brock Boltmann

One thing to know: Mounds View lost its fourth consecutive game. Coach Jim Galvin said missed opportunities late in all four games resulted in defeat.

DAVID LA VAQUE

Edina shuts down Mounds View running game to advance in Class 6A

By Sam Gordon
sgordon@pioneerpress.com
POSTED: 10/17/2015 12:01:00 AM CDT |

Mounds View co-captain River Thompson and a handful of his fellow seniors hung around the 50-yard line after a 21-6 loss to Edina on Friday night.

A season that started with so much promise — and a top-five ranking in the Class 6A preseason poll — ended with some sentimental embraces.
And some watery eyes.
The Mustangs had their chances early and late but couldn’t muster up enough offense to topple the Hornets in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs at Edina Community Center.

Edina held Mounds View’s run-first offense in check and forced junior quarterback Ryan Nickel to fling the football. He responded by throwing an early touchdown pass and four interceptions.

“We couldn’t put the ball in the end zone. We drove down a couple times and we couldn’t score,” Mounds View coach Jim Galvin said. “We just couldn’t make the big play when we had to.”

Edina junior quarterback Brock Boltmann threw two touchdown passes, including a 44-yard bomb to University of North Dakota-bound wide receiver Evan Holm late in the fourth quarter. Holm intercepted a Nickel pass and returned it for a touchdown in the final minute to seal Edina’s victory.

Galvin gathered the players in the stadium’s south end zone after the game and thanked them for a great season while Edina players howled in celebration in the other end zone. The Hornets will play No. 2 seed Burnsville in a second-round matchup next Friday.

Mounds View started the season 4-1 but lost its final three regular season games — all by 10 points or fewer — to finish the regular season 4-4. Thompson said execution was a factor in all of the Mustangs’ losses down the stretch.

“Effort has never been a problem for us,” Thompson said. “We had big opportunities and we just couldn’t capitalize. That was the big difference. … We couldn’t get it done”

The Mustangs, in turn, drew a No. 6 seed in the 32-team tournament despite having a better regular-season record than the Hornets, who finished the regular season 3-5.

But Edina validated its seeding on Friday night.

Boltmann threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Parker Rickert late in the first quarter. Nickel directed a 13-play, 79-yard drive late for Mounds View in the second quarter and capped it with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Luke Swenson.

The Mustangs botched the extra point, though, and spent the next two-plus quarters chasing the Hornets.

Mounds View had several second-half possessions and moved the ball at times. But untimely negative plays and incompletions put Nickel and the Mustangs in several third-and-longs.

“(Mounds View is) a good, well-coached football team,” Edina coach Reed Boltmann said. “We were lucky to get the pick-six.”

Galvin reinforced after the game that the Mustangs needed just one more big play in a handful of games this season.

“We’re right in these dang games. We just can’t come up with the play at the end that we needed,” he said. “It’s been that way for the last three weeks.”

East Ridge 28, Mounds View 21

High school football: East Ridge 28, Mounds View 21

By Sam Gordon
sgordon@pioneerpress.com

POSTED:   08/29/2015 12:01:00 AM CDT | UPDATED:   5 DAYS AGO

Dan Fritze has been the East Ridge football coach for just two games, and he already has accomplished something predecessor Mike Pendino never did.

He beat Mounds View.

The Raptors jumped to an early 14-0 lead and held off a late rally to beat the Mustangs 28-21, their first-ever win over the Mustangs and the first win of Fritze’s head coaching career.

After the game, assistant coaches congratulated Fritze, East Ridge’s longtime offensive coordinator who took over after Pendino stepped down earlier this month amid an eligibility controversy.

“I don’t really see it as my first win. I’ve been a coach at East Ridge since (2009),” Fritze said. “It feels like our team’s first win. That’s how it feels.”

Fritze gathered his players near the 30-yard line and delivered a spirited postgame speech.

“There’s something special here,” Fritze said as players responded with enthusiasm.

Raptors junior running back Dominik London said players have rallied behind Fritze and “were cheering for him to be head coach” after learning Pendino resigned.

“We didn’t want anybody coming in (from outside the program). We love Coach Fritze,” London said after rushing for 201 yards on 27 carries. “I think he’s doing a really good job with us right now.”

Senior linebacker Joshua Knazze had a key interception and a fumble-return touchdown as the Raptors improved to 1-1. London scored a touchdown, and fullback Connor Mohs had two touchdowns runs.

The Mustangs (1-1), ranked No. 4 in the state in Class 6A, rotated three quarterbacks but struggled to find an offensive rhythm. Mustangs ball carriers had just 53 yards rushing on 35 attempts. The quarterbacks combined to finish 15 of 27 for 202 yards.

Mounds View junior quarterback Steven Skwarek threw two touchdown passes, but Knazze intercepted his first pass attempt to set up Mohs’ first touchdown run early in the first quarter.

“When I saw that (interception) — that was the stepping stone right there,” London said. “East Ridge is back.”

London had a 68-yard run on the Raptors’ next drive to set up Mohs’ second touchdown run, and East Ridge’s defense kept the Mustangs at bay for most of the first half.

“Building that early lead is huge,” Mounds View coach Jim Galvin said. “We had a lot of trouble corralling those guys.”

Knazze gave the Raptors a 28-7 lead in the third quarter with a fumble-return touchdown, but Mounds View clawed back and pulled within a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Skwarek and receiver Mitch Vaske failed to connected on an open go-route late in the fourth, though, and East Ridge ran out the clock to secure Fritze’s first win.

“Our kids see (Mounds View) really as the program in the conference to beat,” Fritze said. “(These are) baby steps right now for this season.”