How good is the Ridge High School football team? The Red Devils got penalized 12 times for 140 yards, had two long touchdown runs called back and a punt blocked, yet still handled Somerville 28-10 on the road Friday night.
“Penalties hurt us a lot. We’ve got to work on those,” said junior quarterback Conor Hughes, who threw for 179 yards and three touchdowns. “But the team we’ve got, we can all play.”
That sums it up nicely for Ridge, which at 4-0 is the No. 1 team in the Courier News Top 10 and looks like a legitimate championship contender.
“Everyone in school is starting to support us,” Hughes said. “We’re really getting the ball rolling.”
Senior tailback Evan Skea rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown but had two spectacular 40-yard scoring runs negated by holding calls. He also recorded a sack for a Ridge defense that limited Somerville (1-3) to just 137 yards of offense. Hughes led the Red Devils in rushing with 65 yards.
Junior wide receiver Nick Franzese grabbed two touchdown passes from Hughes, extending a connection that has flummoxed opposing secondaries this fall.
“We’ve been playing together our whole lives,” Hughes said. “He’s always been my receiver and the person I look for.”
Ridge established itself early, going 74 yards on eight plays for the game’s first score. A 34-yard keeper by Hughes set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Hughes to Franzese with 4:39 left in the first quarter.
Somerville countered with a 12-play drive keyed by a 23-yard pass from Joe Lucas to Casey McAdam. Kicker Scott Jordan capped it with a 41-yard field goal to make it 7-3 early in the second.
The Pioneers looked to gain the upper hand on the next possession when senior Tyree Melton broke through the line and blocked a Ridge punt. But their ensuing possession went nowhere as Ridge’s rugged defensive front forced a three-and-out. Jordan’s punt came to rest at the Red Devils’ 8.
Then came the tour de force drive of the night. Nickel-and-diming their way down the field, with no gain longer than 11 yards, the Red Devils moved to Somerville’s 42 before facing third-and-8. Some good fortune came into play as Hughes’ pass was tipped by a Somerville defender and landed in the hands of wideout Adam Walker for a 23-yard gain down the right sideline.
Two plays later, Hughes found senior Michael Sibilia alone in the left corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass. Hughes added the extra point to pump Ridge’s lead to 14-3 with 1:10 remaining in the half. The 92-yard march lasted 15 plays and nearly seven minutes.
That momentum carried over into the third quarter. A 40-yard bomb from Hughes to Ryan Bell landed at Somerville’s 1, and Skea powered it in from there to make it 21-3.
But Somerville did not go quietly. Two possessions later, back to back personal fouls by Ridge put the Pioneers on the doorstep, and senior fullback Cameron Wyckoff plowed into the end zone from 2 yards out to cut the deficit to 21-10 with 2:17 left in the third.
Ridge’s response was fast and furious. Hughes narrowly escaped a sack and then found Skea for an 18-yard screen pass. Then the quarterback scrambled for 13 yards and launched a 29-yard touchdown pass to Franzese, who had gotten behind the defense. Hughes’ PAT put Ridge up by 18, and that’s how it would stay.