LINDEN, NJ -- The Ridge football team's defense turned in a yeoman effort to offset a mistake-prone offense as the Red Devils beat Linden, 14-7, on the road in their final regular-season game before the playoffs begin next week.
Senior wingback Jack Perry scored both touchdowns for Ridge (7-1) and, at safety, also was a key contributor to a defense that kept Linden (2-7) out of the end zone. The Tigers' only touchdown did not come against Ridge's defense, but rather on a fumble return.
Ridge, which led, 7-0, at halftime, lost three fumbles in the second half. The other two did not lead to any Linden points, but the three turnovers certainly tempered the Red Devils' enthusiasm over the victory.
"We played terribly tonight on offense, and we have a lot to work on," Perry said. "I feel sick from how we played tonight. But our defense is always hard-hitting, and teams never get anything easy on us."
Ridge took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter when Perry went 36 yards on a counter play and Jake Beckman kicked the extra point. The fact that Ridge had just a 7-0 lead against an opponent with two victories wasn't necessarily a surprise, given that Linden has played one of the toughest schedules in New Jersey, and has played good teams tough week after week.
"We knew coming on how tough an opponent they were," Ridge coach Bill Tracy said. "We think the world of Linden. They've been in every game this season against great teams."
Early in the third quarter, Ridge doubled its lead. After Linden was penalized for interfering with a Ridge fair catch attempt on a punt, Linden punted again from deep in its own territory. Ridge's Devin Rose-Hennessey partially blocked the re-punt attempt and the Red Devils ended up with the ball on the Linden 31-yard line.
On the next play, quarterback Brendan Bell rolled out to his left on a waggle play and passed deep to a wide open Perry down the left sideline for a 31-yard TD pass. Beckman's second PAT extended Ridge's lead to 14-0. Bell finished with eight completions in 11 attempts for 126 yards.
The rest of the half, Linden's offense had just one play that gained more than 10 yards (and that one only went for 11), but while the Ridge defense was doing its due diligence, the Red Devils' offense lost the ball on fumbles on each of their next three possessions. With 2:09 left in the third quarter, a lost fumble resulted in a 42-yard TD return for Linden to cut the Ridge lead to 14-7.
On its final possession, Linden reached the Ridge 30, but on fourth down and three, Perry and defensive ends Nolan Murphy and Jared Ziegler combined to sack the quarterback, returning possession to Ridge and effectively ending the game.
"We played great on defense," Tracy said. "We have all year. We've been holding teams to one or two scores at most every week. We're proud of them.
"But we gave the ball away three times. You can't do that. Our last five or six quarters on offense we haven't been effective and we've turned the ball over too much. That's something we have to correct going into the playoffs."
Ridge will get a home game in the first round of the North Jersey, Group 5 playoffs next Friday night. The opponent will be determined by the end of this weekend.