Thursday, October 23, 2003
There won't be an rest for Columbia High's overworked defensive unit this Friday night.
Not when the leading candidate for state Class 2A player of the year is lined up in the backfield on the other side of the ball.
For the Bruins to have any chance of winning their second straight homecoming game, their defense will have to rise to the challenge of containing Ridgefield senior Jonny Peru.
So far, nobody the Spudders have played has been able to stop him.
"He's been pretty much unstoppable, so the best you can hope for is to keep him in check and force his teammates to step up and beat you," Bruins Coach Scott Ross said.
That strategy almost worked for Castle Rock three weeks ago. The Rockets allowed Peru to rush for 267 yards but only two touchdowns in a 20-12 loss.
Since, then the Spudders and Peru have been on a tear. In their last two games, the Spuds have outscored their opponents, 104-19. Peru has done most of the damage, rushing for 557 yards and eight scores.
Ridgefield, which has steadily climbed in the state 2A rankings and is now rated sixth in one poll, is 7-0 on the season and 4-0 and tied for first place (with La Center) in Trico Division standings.
The Spudders demolished the Ilwaco Fishermen last Saturday, 63-0, in their bid for their first league championship since 1995 (the same year they won their only state title, while competing at the 1A level).
Peru, a three-sport standout, rushed for 182 yards and three touchdowns against Ilwaco to raise his season totals to 1,604 yards and 24 touchdowns in 174 attempts (for a nifty 9.2 yards per carry average). He's also returned three kickoffs for TDs this season.
"He's a good one. He sees the field well and has good instincts. And you never see him take a hard shot," Ross said in admiration of Ridgefield's workhorse.
A year ago, in the first of two meetings, Peru single-handedly defeated the Bruins, running for 221 yards and four scores in his team's homecoming game.
His 1-yard plunge with under a minute to play secured a 28-21 victory for Ridgefield and knocked Columbia High out of playoff contention.
The Bruins would love nothing more than to pay the Spudders back in their 2003 homecoming game at CHS Stadium.
"This is a big game for both teams," Ross said. "They need it to keep their title hopes alive, and we need it to stay in the hunt for a playoff berth."
Columbia's key to victorys rest with its offense keeping Ridgefield's O-team off the field as much as possible.
"In a game like this, what's important for us is to get the ball, move it down the field and force Ridgefield to play defense for long periods of time," Ross noted. "That's what we wanted to do against La Center, but we weren't very successful, because we weren't able to establish the run the way we wanted to."
The Bruins best hope on defense is to bend but not break.
"We can't give up any big plays. We have to make them earn everything and try to keep a corral around Jonny Peru," Ross said, "because if we let them run the ball consistently, we're going to be in trouble."