Ridgefield rallies Hockinson for first win of season

RIDGEFIELD — The stakes for Ridgefield football were simple: dig themselves a deeper hole by going 0-3 with a loss, or start 2A Greater St. Helens League playing 1-0 with a win over Hockinson.

Although the defending 2A GSHL champions admitted it was far from their cleanest game, the Spudders avoided the unthinkable by coming back from a seven-point halftime deficit to dominate the Hawks 26-21 at home.

“The message all week was, you can either be 0-3 or you can be 1-0 and be on track with where we’re trying to go,” Ridgefield coach Scott Rice said. “We talked for (the first) two weeks that these are games of pride, these are games that we want to win, but these are games that don’t count for anything. … Getting him on the right track is really good. Ugly, but we got there.

The way Spudders (1-2, 1-0) earned their first win of the season, after losses to WF West and Mountain View, is testament to the Spudders defense that held Hockinson scoreless in the second half and forced three interceptions in the last 24 minutes.

That, and a strong offensive line that paved the way for junior running back Rocco Wright to rush for 159 yards on 30 carries.

“I couldn’t even imagine that we were 0-3 for the season, especially with the season (we had) last year,” Wright said. “I wanted to make sure we went out in this game and did what we do best – hit the rock on both sides of the ball. It was awesome.”

After Ridgefield scored two touchdowns in the first quarter through the air from quarterback Logan DeBeaumount to receivers Isaiah Cowley and Landon Kelsey, the team’s offensive script to start the third quarter was somewhat surprising.

The Spudders called Wright’s number on seven straight plays on the drive, which ended with a 6-yard touchdown to put Ridgefield up 21-20.

“I was like, ‘feed me, feed me’ all the time,” Wright said. “The last two games I was like, I’m about to break one…I’m proud of myself and the line o, I mean, they were dogs up front. I’m really proud of them. I will definitely give them donuts or something.

This brand of football was a welcome sign for Rice, who is also the Spudders’ offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. And because it worked so well on a record, well, why not go back to it again?

Over his next two drives, Ridgefield called another 10 rush plays before attempting his only pass of the third quarter when the clock expired, a 24-yard touchdown strike from DeBeaumount to Kelsey, which gave Ridgefield a lead 26-21 toward fourth.

“It’s not that we haven’t been successful in the passing game; it just made more sense to keep hitting the ball,” Rice said. “I always like it if we can just get behind the big boys up front and hammer the ball. It’s always great. And as an OC, I’ll keep calling him.

Ridgefield went to the locker room at halftime 21-14 against the Hawks, who moved the ball at will against the Spudders defense.

The opening drive included a 58-yard bomb from Hockinson quarterback Jarod Oldham to Tyler Litle, who set up a 16-yard touchdown from Enzo Oliverio.

Hockinson (1-2, 0-1) added 14 unanswered points in the second quarter on a Litle 8-yard touchdown from Oldham and a 3-yard score from John Charles on the ground.

Still, for the effectiveness of Hockinson’s attack, the visitors found moving the ball against Ridgefield a more difficult task late in the half.

Ridgefield’s Carter Ferber intercepted Hockinson in the third quarter to set up the touchdown, and Noah Stromberg caught another to start the fourth quarter.

Hockinson’s most promising drive, which started on his own 8-yard line, stalled on the other side of midfield when Ridgefield’s pass rush helped force three consecutive misses. On the 4th and 10th, Oldham took off for a run, but was met by a tackle from Wyatt Bartroff near the Ridgefield touchline, stopping Hockinson 1 yard from a first down with less than 3 minutes to play.

Stromberg grabbed his second interception to stop Hockinson’s final drive with 49 seconds left.

Hockinson, by the way, has only lost two 2A GSHL games since 2014, and both have come against Ridgefield. The Spudders’ 35-0 win at Hockinson last season was seen as a milestone for a program that won a league title and advanced to the 2A state quarter-finals.

Friday, they hope, is the start of another race.

“It shows we’re not a team that’s going to give up and give up,” Bartroff said. “We are a team that will fight until the end, no matter the score, we will put everything in and hope to win a league title this year.”