Fremont Bergan quarterback Jake Ridder quoted a former Wood River signal caller when describing the performance of the Knights on Friday night against Crofton.
“Scott Frost said the biggest jump you’ll see a team makes is between the first and the second game of the season,” Ridder said about the current Nebraska head football coach. “We definitely saw that in our guys tonight.”
Ridder rushed for two touchdowns and threw for three others as the Knights downed the Warriors 31-13 at Heedum Field to improve to 2-0.
Bergan coach Seth Mruz said the Knights, rated sixth by the Omaha World-Herald in Class C-2, weren’t at their best during last week’s one-point win over Logan View.
“We challenged the kids all week to be the more physical team,” Mruz said. “It was a matter of showing up, winning every play and beating the guy across from you. I know this team can by physical because we return a lot of guys from last year. We have a lot of confidence, but we just didn’t play like that last week. I thought we got punched in the mouth and didn’t respond real well.
“We did enough to win the game, but it wasn’t up to par of what ‘Fighting Knight’ football is. I think this was a game that makes a lot of alumni proud.”
Bergan scored on its first series. A seven-play, 55-yard march culminated when Ridder carried for a 5-yard touchdown. The conversion failed, but the Knights led 6-0 with 6:53 left in the first quarter.
Crofton’s next series was three-and-out. The Knights then drove 62 yards in nine plays. Ridder connected with Jackson Gilfry on a 21-yard pass play on the march that ended when Koa McIntyre scored on a 6-yard TD reception.
The conversion failed, but Bergan led 12-0 with 3:01 left in the first quarter.
“They (the Warriors) are a team that likes to grind it out,” Mruz said. “It was huge to jump out on them. We wanted to put them in position where they aren’t comfortable. They don’t like to pass, they like to get 3 or 4 yards on the ground at a time.”
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The lead swelled to 19-0 when Ridder executed a perfect fake to Ethan Villwok, kept the ball and went 20 yards for a touchdown with 4:42 left in the half.
The Warriors, who lost 28-0 to Oakland-Craig last week, got their first touchdown of the season when Jimmy Allen scored on a 1-yard run late in the first half. Jayden Eilers’ conversion kick made it 19-7 at halftime.
On the third play from scrimmage in the second half, Ridder connected with Shea Gossett on a 55-yard touchdown pass. The conversion run failed, but the Knights led 25-7.
“Shea keeps stepping up more and more,” said Ridder, who was 18 of 25 passing for 255 yards and also rushed for 53 yards on seven carries. “I didn’t know how big of an asset he would be, but last week he kept picking up big fourth downs for us. Tonight he was getting open, I was able to get him the ball and he made big plays out of it.”
Crofton had two or three opportunities to sack Ridder, but the senior was able to stay on his feet and avoid a loss. The biggest of those came late in the third quarter when he broke away from a bigger defender, scrambled and connected with Dylan Marchand on a 29-yard touchdown pass.
“He keeps plays alive with his legs so he can do things with his arm,” Mruz said. “He has good vision and he is bigger, stronger and faster than he has been in past years. He is able to break away from those (potential) sacks.”
Allen added a 10-yard touchdown run to close the scoring in the fourth quarter.
The Knights, who outyarded Crofton 399-171, will face Wilber-Clatonia on Friday night in Bergan’s homecoming game. The Knights suffered a 38-14 loss last season to the the Wolverines. Ridder was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a concussion.
“I think all of us have a chip on our shoulder from that game,” the quarterback said. “We know we shouldn’t have lost that last year. It was a tough loss. Obviously I wish I wouldn’t have gone down in the second quarter, but we’ve been preparing and I think we’ll be ready for it.”