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Ridgewater offense still needs spark

Ridgewatger tacklers, from left, Tyler Blomme, Otimbum Wilson, Justin Wennerberg and Mickell Brown combine to stop Mesabi Range running back Avery Walker after at two-yard gain in the first quarter Saturday at Hodapp Field in Willmar. <b>(Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)</b>1 / 2
Ridgewater wide receiver Justin Brown picks up 25 yards after taking a pass from Jackson Illies in the first quarter. <b>(Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)</b>2 / 2

WILLMAR -- After two games, there's no disguising Ridgewater is a team in search of some offense.

The Warriors fell to Mesabi Range 20-3 Saturday in their home opener. For the second week in a row, the new spread attack produced only a field goal.

"That was pathetic," said coach Rob Baumgarn after a long huddle with his coaching staff at the end of the game. "There's no reason we shouldn't have had 25 points. Every time we got close (to the goal line), we shot ourselves in the foot."

Freshman quarterback Jackson Illies, from the shotgun, was intercepted four times. He completed 17 of 34 passes for 97 yards. The pass protection was mediocre at best.

Discounting 31 yards in sacks, the Warriors' ground game showed a net of 40 yards.

The Warriors defense can hardly be faulted. They were on the field most of the day and finally wilted in the 80-degree sunshine when the Norsemen (2-0) tacked on eight points in the fourth quarter.

The visitors from Virginia started their first two possessions at the Ridgewater 30 but had nothing to show for it.

"I thought we played pretty well," said Ridgewater defensive end Joe Doubler. "I think we could have the best defense in the division. As far as the offense, we've got a lot of athletes, but it's a young team."

Guard Antonio Nicholas is the only sophomore on the starting unit which did its best work early in the game.

Starting at their own two, Illies directed an 11-play drive that stalled at the Mesabi five. Key plays were a 25-run run around left end by Patrick Cincinatus and a 25-yard pass play from Illies to Justin Brown.

Four of Ridgewater's seven first down came in the 93-yard march.

Mesabi, which has nine back from the team which won the 2008 MCAC title, led 6-3 at halftime on a pass play covering 30 yards from Clair Cazius to Dekeldric Felton.

The Norsemen made it 12-3 on the second play of the second half when Mario McCollough threw to Javaris Harris on a 50-yard scoring play. Avery Walker busted around end for first 20 yards and finally five yards to complete a short, 35-yard drive and end the scoring with 9:18 left to play.

Warriors tackle leaders were Otimbum Wilson with 10 and Phil Herkenhoff and Tyler Blomme eight each. Mickell Brown, Doubler and Kris Belfry all got in at least two sacks.

Mesabi Range 20, Ridgewater 3

Mesabi Range....................0 0 6 8 -- 20

Ridgewater.........................3 0 0 0 -- 3

Ridge - Justin Brown 22 field goal

Mesabi - Dekedric Felton 30 pass from Clair Cazius (kick failed)

Mesabi - Javaris Harris 47 pass from Mario McCollough (kick failed)

Mesabi - Avery Walker 5 run (Walker run)

Mesabi Range

Team statistics

First downs: 18 ... Rushing: 130 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 215 ... Fumbles lost: 1 ... Penalties: 13-85

Individual statistics

Not available


Team statistics

First downs: 7 ... Rushing: 18-9 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 20-43-112-4 ... Fumbles lost: 0 ... Penalties: 3-35

Individual statistics

Rushing: Patrick Cincinatus 6-34, Antoine Smoot 6-5, Jackson Illies 6-(-31), Jordan Shoulders 1-1 ... Passing: Illies 17-34-97-4, Shoulders 3-9-15-0 ... Receiving: Shane Black 2-18, Justin Brown 5-40, James Lucas 4-26, Cincinatus 2-4, William Ford 4-15, Mitch Neubauer 3-9 ... Punting: Justin Wennerberg 8-31.6 ... Interceptions: none ... Fumble recoveries: none ... Tackles (solo-assist): Phil Herkenhoff 4-4, Tyler Blomme 5-3, Ryan Maxwell 5-1, Brennan Hagert 3-0, Joe Doubler 1-4, Mickell Brown 2-4, Robert Johnson 2-1, Kris Belfrey 3-4, Craig Gartner 2-1, Anthony Adams 4-1, Martell Harris 5-0, Wennerberg 1-3, Eliot Ingram 0-1, Dwayne Lowe 2-0, Jarell Washington 2-0, Andrew Rauen 1-0, Otimbum Wilson 6-4 ... QB sacks: Herkenhoff 1, Maxwell 1, Doubler 2, Brown 2½, Gartner 1

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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