ST. CLOUD -- The secondary is primary for the 2008 Ridgewater Warriors.
And, oh yes, Alex McLaughlin.
Both made big plays on Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium in a 41-14 win over Itasca College.
It was the third of five games over two days at St. Cloud State University in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference Kick-off Classic.
Brandon Torry, one of four sophomores starting in the Warriors' secondary, picked an Itasca fumble out of the air and scooted 55 yards for the only score of the first quarter.
McLaughlin, who played strong safety at Apple Valley but was converted to running back here, dived over his right guard for a one-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
The muscular 205-pound sophomore scored the next two Warrior touchdowns, the first covering 99 yards at 10:05 of the second quarter for a 20-0 lead. He followed that up with a 44-yard burst at 6:38 of the third quarter for a 27-14 lead. The third McLaughlin tally came one play after Torry had made a leaping interception of a Vaughn Askew sideline pass.
Ridgewater sophomore quarterback Justin Koenen described the 99-yard play.
"We just ran inside when they were blitzing outside," said Koenen, who took the snap just beyond the one-yard line. "All we had to do was pick up the inside linebacker."
The Warriors tacked on two more touchdowns in the second half: running back Brendan Fort ran in from the 10-yard-line and quarterback Jordan Shoulders burrowed in from the one after conducting a short scoring drive.
The defense held the Vikings to 19 second-half yards. Itasca's two scores both came off Askew scrambles in the second quarter, one a Fran Tarkenton-like fire drill that officially covered one yard and the other a 23-yard toss to Doug Hass.
McLaughlin finished with 251 yards in 32 carries. Fullback Nik Neubarth logged 39 yards in 11 attempts.
"Our running game was dominant," said Ridgewater coach Rob Baumgarn of the team's 348 rushing yards. "The defense shut them out in the second half and we made the plays. Neubarth blocked well along with the line. Koenen, you could tell, has matured. I don't think he made one bad decision today."
Koenen threw for 62 yards, all but six in the second half.
Itasca got only seven first downs and 131 total yards against the Warriors' defense. Tackle leaders were defensive end Mickell Brown (nine), linebackers Matt Wold (seven) and Trent Molacek (six) and tackle Torean Tubman and defensive end Joe Doubler five each.
The Warriors are at Mesabi Range College in Eveleth on Saturday before the home opener against Vermilion on Sept. 13.
Also at the Kick-off Classic, Mesabi drilled Fergus Falls 28-0 and Minnesota West tipped Vermilion 35-26. Rochester, the undefeated 2007 state champion, held off Northland's upset bid, 35-28.
Ridgewater 41, Itasca 14
Itasca.......................0 14 0 0 -- 14
Ridgewater..............7 13 7 14 -- 41
Ridge - Brandon Torry 55 fumble recovery (Luke Euerle kick)
Ridge - Alex McLaughlin 1 run (Euerle kick)
Ridge - McLaughlin 99 run (kick failed)
Itasca - Vaughn Askew 1 run ( (Clemence kick)
Itasca - Doug Hass 23 pass from Askew (Clemence kick)
Ridge - McLaughlin 44 run (Euerle kick)
Ridge - Brenan Fort 10 run (Euerle kick)
Ridge - Jordan Shoulders 1 run (Euerle kick)
First downs: 7 ... Rushing: 33-348 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 7-22-59-1 ... Fumbles lost: 2 ... Penalties: 7-45
Rushing: Akeem Rawls 13-31, Matt Niesen 6-42, Jimmie Walker 7-25, Doug Haas 1-05, Vaughn Askew 6-(-31) ... Passing: Vince Askew 7-22-59-1 ... Receiving: Oscar Banegas 3-0, Dave Trevarthen 1-43, Haas 1-17, Rawls 1-0, Niesen 1-(-1) ... Punting: not available ... Interceptions: none ... Fumble recoveries: not available ... Tackles (solo-assist): not available
First downs: 10 ... Rushing: 58-348 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 6-11-62-0 ... Fumbles lost: 2 ... Penalties: 6-65
Rushing: Alex McLaughlin 32-251, Nik Neubarth 11-39, Justin Koenen 4-25, Brendan Fort 5-14, Walter Rochet 1-9, Donnie McPherson 1-9, Jordan Shoulders 1-1, Eric Orth 2-0, Brenton Bradford 1-0 ... Passing: Koenen 6-11-62-0 ... Receiving: McLaughlin 2-22, Trent Traxler 1-30, Orth 1-7, Jordan Hanson 1-6, Neubarth 1-(-3) ... Punting: Brett Dumke 4-31.3 ... Interceptions: Torry 1 ... Fumble recoveries: Torry 1 ... Tackles (solo-assist): Torry 1-2, DeCarlo Serrano 3-1, Dumke 1-0, Travis Colgrove 1-0, Walter Dudley 2-0, Leon Sargent 1-0, Micah Oates-Jenkins 2-0, Sonny Zahn 3-0, Justin Melhado 1-2, Casey Reibe 2-0, Mickell Brown 5-4, Joe Doubler 2-3, Trent Molacek 2-4, Tyler Blomme 3-0, Tyler Petermeier 2-0, Matt Wold 5-2, Philip Herkenhoff 2-0, Justin Knasser 1-0, Cory Johnson 1-0, Torean Tubman 1-4 ... QB sacks: Sargent 1, Brown 1, Doubler 1, Knasser 1, Johnson 1 ... Forced fumble: Doubler 1