East Ridge High School Football
Park students and coaches donned white foam Guardian caps popular among NFL players to raise funds for Teddy’s Heart Foundation. As of today, they have raised $11,000.
Nate Ricci returned from injury and quickly scored two special teams touchdowns on his first two touches of the ball.
On Friday night in the 6A quarterfinals, two talented teams met. East Ridge’s Charlie Bern scored three touchdowns to lead his side and claim an upset win that will go down as one of their finest moments ever in school history.
East Ridge had already pulled off several big upsets in the playoffs, so when facing Lakeville South, they felt confident of doing it again. Their offense was clicking, but it was their defense that kept this contest close throughout.
As the second quarter progressed, Eastridge looked like taking control of the game. But a 4th-and-1 play inside the red zone ended without success for Eastridge; Massachusetts commit Freddie Brock made himself known on that play by breaking through two tackles to blast through another defender and extend their drive.
On Eastridge’s next drive, they turned to Tanner Zolnosky to lead them in their run game, and he did not disappoint with his 99-yard performance on 25 carries and one touchdown through passing, enough for Eastridge to hold onto a 20-7 advantage at halftime.
Anoka scored their only touchdown of the third quarter on a 1-yard run from junior Zach Welch, and it seemed as if Anoka might mount a comeback in this back-and-forth contest before Bern struck again with three consecutive touchdowns from quarterback Jaden Bern.
The 6A semifinals showcase some of the state’s most outstanding talent, which was evident during this game. Both teams produced big plays throughout, but Dillon Peterson returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown to seal victory for his team, the Raptors.
Both teams have shown tremendous heart and determination throughout their journey to this point, yet only one will go on to move forward. Whoever prevails will have an opportunity to make waves in the state tournament.
East Ridge High School, as one of the newest public high schools in the region, has already made an impactful athletic legacy. Their boy’s basketball team made it to the state final four, and several former football and baseball players have enjoyed significant college success; now East Ridge will pay tribute to that success with its inaugural Hall of Fame class, including Richard Jackson, Bud O’Hara, Kim Smith, and Chimdi Chekwa being honored before Friday’s homecoming game against Windermere.
Not often does defense get its due in the playoffs, but East Ridge boys made sure it did in their quarterfinal win against Anoka on Friday. Their aggressive defense gave them plenty of opportunities, and several of them turned into big plays for East Ridge.
Defense is led by three physical players up front: 6-foot, 305-pound junior Logan Pantilla serves as a nose guard, 6-foot-245-pound senior Jo Jo Garcia defends defensive ends, and linebacker Jamel Butts provides solid linebacking protection. All three boast outstanding size, strength, and instincts while being supported by an excellent group of backs – led by junior Jamel Butts with 1,200 passing yards and 350 rushing yards, respectively.
East Ridge will bring back plenty of experience to their roster this year. Cole Rylski was the Ancient Eight’s leading passer a year ago and boasts both size and speed; he will be joined by an experienced group of receivers, including seniors Trey Borchers and Jamaal Woody, who each have over 1,000 yards on the year.
Next season, we could see an even more potent offense with Cade Bern back in his senior running back position. Coach McGonigal is building up a formidable group, and it won’t take much for them to return where they belong – especially with such an effective defense!
East Ridge School stands out from other football programs by offering an assortment of extracurricular activities beyond standard football programs, including Advanced Placement courses and college credit through Century College. As part of the South Washington County Schools district, it boasts 79 full-time faculty members serving a 1,500-student population.
The Raptors have proven themselves an unstoppable force this season, with their running backs being among the state’s best. On Thursday against Park, senior Tanner Zolnosky threw for 173 yards and scored twice, but it was their defense that proved decisive, converting two Park turnovers into touchdowns for their score.
One of ER’s two turnovers came via a 1-yard run from 6-foot-6 Kene Anene, who holds an offer from Kansas, while senior safety Noah Wright recovered a fumble for their team.
These turnovers kept the game close until Raptors offensive took control with a 10-play drive that culminated with Zolnosky throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Frendt for an 8-yard score, giving them a 31-28 edge with four minutes left in the fourth quarter – which they held onto to win comfortably.
Woodbury native John Lorang began playing high school baseball and golf under former East Ridge head coach Bruce Johnson before going on to Concordia University and UW-La Crosse for college golfing. Together with his wife, they now have three young sons named Lucas, Ben, and Nathan.
The Raptors have had an impressive start this fall. Their special teams are making an immediate, impactful statement with scoring contributions from kicker Logan Schultz’s seven field goals. Nate Ricci has led his punt return team by returning two punts for touchdowns over his first two games back.
Shakir joined the Rochester football staff this year after serving at Shiloh High School in Gwinnett County as linebackers and special teams coach, as well as being defensive coordinator of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado, as well as an assistant coach with the Vikings in 2014. A graduate of Brevard College, he has extensive coaching experience across multiple states at both high school and college levels.
Coach Matt McGonigal brings the right mindset and approach to this team, taking them to the next level and helping them get back to winning again. He boasts considerable experience and an established track record, having also coached college teams. Matt will undoubtedly prove himself invaluable as an asset on this squad.
East Ridge School was opened in 2009 and competes against Minnesota’s most prominent schools in Class 6A, but became one of the state’s premier contenders before having to relinquish both conference and section titles for using an ineligible player last season. Following this scandal, both its athletic director and principal resigned immediately.
The Knights finished 3-6 last season and did not repeat their 2016 playoff appearance. However, it is a positive sign that they have won some games recently and appear more capable than in recent seasons.
Mike Pendino stepped down as head football coach at East Ridge High School following an investigation by WCCO into whether or not he recruited players while coaching at another school. Concerned citizens first voiced concerns at a school board meeting held in June 2020.
Mike Pendino holds both teaching and administrative responsibilities at his high school, in addition to coaching duties. He holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physical education. Mike is also an assistant coach for several college teams and is part of Minnesota State’s coaching staff.
He has extensive collegiate experience coaching at both Division II and III levels, as well as serving on athletic department staffs at the University of Minnesota, Drake University, and St. Cloud State University. In addition, he is certified to coach through the Minnesota State Teachers Union.
The Knights are looking forward to an impressive season this year and have brought on board an experienced coach with championship experience who can improve the offense and put this team into better positions than previous years. He brings with him his championship mindset that will propel them toward glory!