No matter how good a team's best player is, football is still a game played by 11 men on each side of scrimmage.
Ridgefield proved the point last Friday, regrouping from the loss to injury of state 2A player of the year candidate Jonny Peru to hold off Columbia High, 21-7, in CHS's homecoming game.
After Peru left late in the first quarter with a broken collarbone, the Spudders rode the arm of quarterback Jordan Davis and the legs of slotback Reese Christopher to two second-quarter touchdowns and a 14-0 halftime lead.
Their defense neutralized the Bruins' running game (41 yards on 24 attempts overall) and forced CHS to pursue success through the air in the second half.
Junior quarterback Jon Bryan finished with 131 yards passing, completing 9-of-26 attempts, including one for Columbia's only touchdown.
That came on the final play of a 69-yard drive, with Bryan throwing to Marcus Giovannoni for an 11-yard score with 8:56 remaining in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Alex Villa's point-after kick made it 14-7.
Bryan and Giovannoni hooked up three times during the seven-play scoring series for 64 yards. Giovannoni ended the game with eight receptions for 115 yards.
The senior receiver nearly had a ninth catch and second touchdown on what proved to be CHS's last play of the night.
On fourth-and-12 from Ridgefield's 24-yard line, Bryan threw a perfect pass -- low and away from the defender -- to his favorite target on the far sideline of the end zone.
However, Giovannoni, who made the grab, couldn't get a foot down. The official on the spot quickly ruled him out of bounds with 55 seconds left.
Ridgefield took over on downs and ran out the clock to remain undefeated on the season (8-0) and in the Trico Division (5-0, tied for first).
Columbia dropped to 2-3 in league play (tied for fourth) and 3-5 overall with one game to go.
Bruins Coach Scott Ross said he expected a higher scoring affair -- not a defensive struggle -- because of Ridgefield's explosive offense, led by Peru.
"I was worried that they were going to score quite a few points on us and possibly blow us out if our kids didn't show up to play defense," Ross noted.
But show up they did to duke it out with the Spudders for four quarters of what their coach characterized as "smash-mouth football."
"The coaching staff was pleased with the effort of our football team, especially defense-wise," Ross said. "Our kids were flying around and laying some pretty good licks on people. I'm sure Saturday morning those Ridgefield kids were pretty sore."
In what has become known locally -- even affectionately -- as the "bend but don't break defense," the Bruins gave up 356 yards. The key, however, was that none of those were big, costly plays.
"The last two games our kids have started to figure out what it takes to play physical football, which is what it takes when you go up against these ranked teams," Ross said. "The kids felt good about how they played. They felt that they gave Ridgefield everything they could handle and then some."