Their team holding a slim three-point led in the fourth quarter, both East Ridge coach and quarterback fought to keep their focus.
On the sideline, coach Dan Fritze ignored the advice of his father, Dave, a longtime coach, and sought to score rather than bleed the clock. On the field, quarterback Otumus Payemanu was caught between the raucous fans and could barely hear himself shout instructions.
Payemanu helped the Raptors close out the victory, running the final 26 yards of the clinching drive in a 31-21 victory against crosstown rival Woodbury. Host East Ridge won the East Metro Blue subdistrict championship outright and made a case for a No. 1 seed in next week's Class 6A playoffs.
"It's a little chapter in our story," Payemanu said. "We're not done. We want more."
Neither team showed quit Friday. Their seasons depended on their resolve. Woodbury (6-2) lost all but one game last season. East Ridge lost two Division I players a year earlier than planned and its coach a week before the season.
With a 21-0 lead in the second quarter, East Ridge seemed poised to make the game a rout. Then Woodbury quarterback Brady Mundahl connected with Jeremiah Coddon for a 95-yard score.
"They're a great team," Payemanu said. "Their record says it all. They come back and play hard in the fourth quarter."
East Ridge (7-1) amped up the pass rush in the second half, blitzing Mundahl repeatedly.
"We took our chances, and if he made the plays, we would have accepted that," Fritze said. "But he's too good a quarterback and he would have picked us apart."
Payemanu, by contrast, got it done with his legs. His touchdown gave East Ridge a 10-point lead with less than seven minutes left.
"It was a good fight both ways," Mundahl said. "Props to them. We just came up short."