Whether it’s due to genetics or the overabundance of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he’s eaten, Desmond Ridder has grown a lot in his two-plus years at St. Xavier High School.
This season he’s also been growing into his role as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.
Friday night the junior will lead St. X (7-4), which is ranked fifth in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, into its Class 6-A second-round playoff showdown against No. 2 Trinity (10-1) at 7:30 p.m. at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The Shamrocks won the regular-season meeting between the two parochial powers 20-15 on Oct. 2 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
“We’re expecting to come out fighting,” Ridder said. “They got us last time, but we’ve got a new mentality.”
Ridder has blossomed this season, accounting for more than 1,700 yards of offense and 17 touchdowns, as the new quarterback for a Tigers team running a new offense (run/pass option).
“This whole year, with a new offense, has been a learning curve for everyone and the quarterback has to know almost more than everybody, almost combined sometimes, with the way we run things,” St. X coach Will Wolford said. “It hasn’t always been perfect at all. There’s always going to be good, bad and ugly when you play the game of football, but he’s continued to learn from his mistakes and work hard and get better every week.”
Developing quickly is nothing new for the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Ridder, who was “5-10 and 130, 135 (pounds),” as a freshman before sprouting in the summer before his sophomore year.
“It just kind of happened naturally, but I try to work hard in the weight room and put on muscle (too),” Ridder said. “Then coach always says, ‘PB&Js,’ so I ate a lot of PB&Js over the summer and during the winter.”
MORE COVERAGE | A coach breaks down Trinity-St. X matchup
MORE COVERAGE | Friday’s Louisville-area playoff schedule
This past winter Ridder, who was a backup to Noah Houk last year, learned the Tigers were putting in a new offense and immediately began preparing for this season.
“As soon as we got the new playbook, that’s when I really started hitting the books and watching film,” he said.
That work has appeared to pay off. So far this season Ridder has rushed for 598 yards and nine touchdowns while completing 87 of 162 passes (53.7 percent) for 1,125 yards and eight TDs as he continues to grow, both figuratively and literally (Ridder says doctors have told him he could reach 6-5 or 6-6).
“He’s pretty fearless,” Wolford said. “He’s very athletic, he’s one of our faster kids on the team so if he does decide to run it, or the play calls for him to run it, he can do it. He has a very strong arm that he continues to work on the touch part of it. He has a lot of strengths, but I think one big thing is he’s a very good leader for the team. He leads by example.’
MORE COVERAGE | A coach breaks down Male-Manual rematch
MORE COVERAGE | From ‘rock bottom’ to ‘diamond’ for Manual DL Chase Gavin
Last week Ridder rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another in leading the Tigers to a 49-13 win over Eastern in the first round of the playoffs. Now he’s hoping to help St. X end its four-game postseason losing streak to the Shamrocks and avenge its regular-season loss.
“On offense we had a lot of turnovers, a lot of mistakes, the defense carried us a lot,” said Ridder, who completed just 7 of 23 passes for 90 yards and threw three interceptions in that defeat. “It was just a few things on those plays that brought us down, but we’ve watched some film and we’ve noticed the tendencies and stuff, so I think we’ll get’em this time.”
Who: St. Xavier (7-4) vs. Trinity (10-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
What’s at stake: Winner will face the Male-Manual winner in next week’s Class 6-A, Region Two final.
Radio/online: WRKA-103.9 and hawklouisville.com (St. X coverage); WGTK-970 (Trinity coverage).