Make no mystique: All’s well at Ridley

LOWER MERION >> A few weeks ago, the Ridley Green Raiders were at a crossroads. They’d lost two games in a row, their backs were against the wall, they were pointing fingers and blaming each other.

After Saturday’s dominating 41-6 Central League victory over Lower Merion, those days are behind them. The Green Raiders (4-2 overall, 2-2), essentially needing to run the table to earn a playoff spot, held the Aces (1-5, 0-4) to 147 yards of total offense and controlled each aspect of the game for all four quarters.

It was their most complete performance of the season, and it came at a vital time.

“I just think we played well,” Ridley coach Dennis Decker said. “We’ve been on the verge the last two or three weeks, playing four quarters. We showed glimpses of playing well, but today I thought we came out and played all four quarters. We executed offensively, defensively — the exception of one play on defense. Special teams, I thought we executed in all facets.”

Ridley gave up a 76-yard touchdown run to Elijah Smith — and that was basically it. Otherwise, it rolled. Cade Stratton had two one-yard quarterback sneaks to give his team a 14-0 lead. After Smith’s long run, Stratton threw touchdown passes of 25 yards (to Gene Gibbons) and 26 yards (to Nadir Forney) to make it 27-6 at halftime.

The Green Raiders were in total control — a far cry from where they were after that loss to Upper Darby two weeks earlier.

“After our last loss, people were down on each other,” Stratton said. “We had to settle everything down and become one team again.”

A solid victory over Radnor last week helped in that process. This thorough disposing of Lower Merion did even more. The mentality started earlier in the week at practice.

“Honestly, that was probably our best week of practice since the beginning of the season,” lineman Antonio Petrill said. “Absolutely that was definitely the most intensity at practice we had.”

It all carried into the game. Ridley had 350 yards of total offense, with 183 coming via Stratton’s arm. Malik Young led the way on the ground with 85 yards and a third quarter score. Gibbons followed that up with a 52-yard punt return that set off the running clock and allowed Decker to empty his bench.

For the veteran coach, and his junior quarterback, the credit went to the boys up front.

“It all starts with our offensive line, (it) played real well today,” Decker said. “…They play well, we’re going to execute and be successful.”

Ridley will need more of that Friday against Strath Haven. The Green Raiders know they can’t afford to lose. Decker doubted his team would earn a playoff berth in District One with three losses.

Therefore, from here on out, the task is simple.

“We’ve already talked about it,” Decker said. “After we lost that game, the second game to Upper Darby, we talked about (how) we need to run the table. Eight-and-two will get in; at 7-3 we’ll be waiting for a Thanksgiving game. That’s the mentality we have.”

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