FROSTBURG, Md. — After an adventurous opening eight minutes, Mountain Ridge got out of the woods behind a powerful rushing attack to rout the Forest Park Foresters, 55-20, on Friday night.
The No. 2 Miners (10-1) gashed No. 7 Forest Park (7-5) to the tune of 304 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. With the win, Mountain Ridge advances to the state semifinals, where it’ll host No. 3 Perryville.
“I thought we’d be able to execute some of our running game, we saw some gaps with how wide they play their defensive ends,” Miners head coach Ryan Patterson said.
“When we gave up the big plays, we came right back and responded. That’s what we expect out of them.”
It’s the first 10-victory season in Mountain Ridge history, surpassing the nine-win marks set in 2010 and ‘11.
“It was kind of hard to see down the road to where we could ever get to this level,” Patterson said. “For the program, I’m really excited for that.”
On Friday night, the Miners had a perfect balance on offense.
Senior quarterback Bryce Snyder completed 7 of 12 passes for 154 yards, two total touchdowns and a pick. Jaden Lee rushed for 179 yards and three TDs on 25 totes.
The game-plan was obvious from the start. Rush Lee early and often to tire out the massive Forest Park defensive line, which had multiple 300-pound bodies on it.
Lee had 21 carries for 132 yards in the first half alone, and the Miners led 35-12 at intermission.
“We wanted to go up-tempo, we knew that there might be some more carries there,” Patterson said. “I didn’t think he’d get 21 in the first half, but nevertheless, the big boys we had to wear them out. We couldn’t stand toe-to-toe with them all game long.”
Lee added 28 receiving yards to top 200 total yards of offense. Uma Pua’auli had two rushes for 64 yards and a score and caught three passes for 69 yards. Connor Guy carried the rock just three times — two went for touchdowns.
Mountain Ridge finished with a 458-128 edge in total offense and had a 20-8 advantage in first downs. The Miners won the turnover battle, 3-1. Both teams threw an interception, and Forest Park had six fumbles but lost only two of them.
The Foresters brought a big and athletic team to Frostburg, and they had a dream start.
Following a five-play, 75-yard Mountain Ridge scoring drive — capped by a 48-yard passing score from Snyder to Nathaniel Washington — Ryshayae Williams took the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to the house.
The Miners answered with an 80-yard scoring drive, allotting their faithful a brief sigh of relief, but Marcus Hill jumped a passing rout for a 25-yard pick-six to trim the Mountain Ridge lead to 14-12.
At the time, Forest Park had just five yards of offense and no first downs.
The Miners rebounded well, scoring 41 unanswered points to start a running clock during the third quarter and cruise to the quarterfinal victory.
“That’s what this team does, they keep bouncing back,” Patterson said. “We were very down after the Fort Hill game. It took a little bit of time to get back on their feet, but they’re trending in the right direction again.”
Forest Park managed just 128 yards of total offense and didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the final minute against the Miners’ subs. Foresters’ QB Kyren Newsome completed 3 of 11 passes for 15 yards and was the leading rusher with 34.
Patterson said his defense’s performance was a credit to their preparation.
Mountain Ridge dropped its defensive ends into the flat to try and run underneath Williams — Forest Park’s most dangerous player — and eliminate screens, Patterson said. The tactic proved successful, as the talented senior receiver had just two catches for nine yards.
“Coach Adam Patterson does a nice job of getting us where we need to be,” Ryan Patterson said. “He always puts a new wrinkle in each week. We try to take away, obviously, the best thing the other team does.
“Time of possession, we totally chewed that up tonight, and that’s what we needed to do against an explosive offense like that.”
Forest Park had the horses to compete, but it was just too undisciplined to sustain drives or garner stops. The Foresters were penalized 12 times for 100 yards — 70 of which came in the first half.
One such penalty occurred when Forest Park had too many men on the field — 15 to be exact.
Now, Mountain Ridge turns to Perryville in its first-ever state semifinal appearance. Taking care of business and earning a rematch against that pesky school in South Cumberland is all that’s on its mind.
“We’ve seen them a little bit,” Patterson said of Perryville. “They’re a diverse offense. They have a really quick quarterback that we’re going to have to keep in check. Reminds me a little bit of (Ryan) Shoemaker that was at Keyser.
“We’re going to come up and execute a completely new game-plan, and I have faith in our coaches to do that.”