Ridge High School’s march toward perfection continues.
The No. 1 Red Devils (11-0) ousted No. 5 Linden, 28-14, Friday night to advance to the North 2 Group V title game against second-seeded Union. The final will be played at a site to be announced Dec. 6, 7 or 8.
Ridge will play in its first final since 2009 when it lost to Phillipsburg in the North 2 IV title game. Ridge won the North 2 Group III title in 2003 after losing to Manasquan in the 2001 Central Group II final. Ridge won an uncontested Central Group II title in 1987.
Ridge will be the first of the Red Devils’ teams to arrive with an unbeaten record built on balance, and enhanced by a little trickery Friday night. It helped oust a talented and dangerous club the Red Devils had beaten in overtime Sept. 27 on the same field.
Two plays tipped the balance in the rematch.
Senior quarterback Conor Hughes threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to senior Nick Franzese with 12 seconds left in the half to give the Red Devils a 21-14 lead. Ridge then recovered the second half kickoff at the Linden 36 on a “pop-up kick” called by special team’s coach John DeBisco.
“He said coach ‘we’re going to try a pop-up kickoff to start the second half,” said Ridge coach Bill Tracy, who was the Red Devils’ head coach in ’09. “I said ‘great,’ I didn’t know if we would get the ball back, but we did and it worked out great, and then we scored. That was a big play in the game.”
The Red Devils overcame four penalties, completing a six-play drive with Hughes scoring from seven yards out to make it a two-touchdown game. His fourth point after made it 28-14.
“It gave us a little breather, but you don’t want to relax there, and let them back in,” he added.
Linden answered by going 16 plays to the Ridge six. But a fourth down pass by quarterback Dazzmen Johnson went incomplete in the end zone. Linden also took 8:31 off the clock. When Ridge got the ball back only 41 seconds remained in the third quarter.
R: Derkasch 4 run (Hughes kick)
L: Morgan 62 pass from Phipps (Ampey kick)
R: Franzese 11 run (Hughes kick)
L: Dolbrice 44 run (Ampey kick)
R: Franzese 25 pass from Hughes (Hughes kick)
R – Hughes 7 run (Hughes kick)
L: Dolbrice 17-125, Phipps 4-8, Johnson 3-(-4); R: Franzese 8-22, Derkasch 18-97, Hughes 9-67, Soulas 2-6
L: Phipps 1-1-0-62, Johnson 11-18-0-54, R: Hughes 9-14-1-134
L: Morgan 1-62, Phipps 5-25, Ampey 1-8, Dolbrice 3-8, West 1-3, Waldron 1-6; R: Franzese 3-61, Bell 4-46, Derkasch 1-24