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Oct. 30, 2020

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Friday Night Flashback: Ridgefield’s defense shines in claiming 2003 Trico title

Undefeated Spudders earn state playoff berth by beating La Center

The Columbian
Published:

This story was originally published in The Columbian on Nov. 1, 2003

LA CENTER — Without Jonny Peru, the Ridgefield Spudders didn’t run away with the Trico League championship Friday.

They found other ways to win it.

Jordan Davis did a bit of everything, and the Ridgefield defense stepped to the forefront as the Spudders finished an undefeated regular season with a 14-0 victory.

Davis scored on a 28-yard run in the first quarter, then threw a 34-yard scoring pass to Pat Byrne in the second quarter to produce the points. He also pinned the Wildcats deep with his punting, and helped the Ridgefield defensive line disrupt the La Center offense.

“The best time I’ve ever had playing a football game or any sports game,” Davis said. “We’ve been waiting for this game all year.”

The win secured the Trico League championship and a state playoff berth for Ridgefield (9-0, 5-0). La Center (7-2, 4-1), which had previously lost only to Class 3A Camas, must play a district qualifying game next week to earn a state berth.

Peru, the Spudders’ speedy game-breaker, suffered a broken collarbone a week ago. But Ridgefield’s strength along the line of scrimmage and versatility in the backfield got the job done against La Center.

Davis shifted from quarterback to a ball carrier, and netted 99 yards on 17 carries. The first time he took the ball he found a hole off right tackle, cut to his right, and dashed 28 yards to the end zone, capping a five-play 80-yard drive on Ridgefield’s first possession.

The second touchdown came late in the first half as the Spudders took advantage of one of La Center’s two fumbles. Davis took a handoff on what looked like a sweep play, then pulled up and threw to Pat Byrne who was open behind the fooled Wildcat defense.

Those plays were fun, but they weren’t the highlight for Davis.

The highlight?

“Definitely defense,” David said. “That’s our team right now.”

When the Spudders fumbled on the first play of the third quarter, La Center managed only four yards before giving the ball back on downs.

The Wildcats crossed midfield two more times in the third quarter, but a fumble ended one drive and consecutive holding penalties doomed the other.

By the fourth quarter, La Center was forced to try for big plays through the air. Consistent pressure from the Ridgefield defensive line made sure that didn’t happen. Wildcats quarterback Chris Williamson was sacked four times in the game and tackled for a loss on two other plays.

“Our coach told us this week that La Center’s a good team, and they’re going to get some plays on us but we have to keep our heads high,” senior lineman Corey Kuhlman said. “But you know what, we shut them out.”

La Center coach John Lambert credited the Spudders defensive linemen for making the difference on a night when the teams were close statistically.

“Our offensive line averages about 185 pounds,” Lambert said. “We can’t normally drive (block) people. We need angles and double-team blocking, and we just did not execute very well, and they did a great job.”

Kuhlman said the key for the lineman was to follow the La Center guards rather than watching the ball in the Wildcats’ deceptive attack.

La Center was limited to 114 rushing yards and 76 passing yards for a net total of 190. Ridgefield finished with 208 yards and each team had nine first downs. But poor field position, six penalties for 50 yards and two lost fumbles made La Center’s task more difficult.

“We might look back on this as something that really helps us,” Lambert said.

“Sometimes teams need to be shocked into recognizing we need to get back to the drawing board, we need to make sure we’re doing the right things.”

For Ridgefield, it was a night to show a few new things.

“We showed that we’re just not a one-man show, and that we can play in the Trico League,” Corey Kuhlman said.

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