Charlie Bern does a little bit of everything for the East Ridge High School football team.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Raptors senior lines up at tight end, running back and fullback on offense while playing both defensive end and linebacker on the other side of the ball.
“I sit on the sideline and (head) coach (Dan Fritze) just puts me in,” Bern said. “He tells me what to do at whatever position he wants me at. I’m kind of like a Swiss Army knife. I do whatever the team needs.”
What East Ridge needed most Friday was touchdowns, and Bern provided them in abundance, rushing for three scores (including a go-ahead 32-yard run with 7:47 to play) and catching another as the Raptors upset Anoka 35-28 on the road in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs at Goodrich Field.
“He came out last year as a junior for the first time in a long time,” Fritze said. “He’s a basketball player. He’s a great athlete, but he was so raw, we weren’t sure where to put him.
“He played outside linebacker, and midway through the season, we realized how good his offensive skills were. He started off at tight end, then we saw he was a powerful runner. So now he plays all over.”
East Ridge (3-6) advances to meet Minnetonka in the second round. The Skippers beat Eastview 37-6 in the first round Friday.
The Tornadoes finished their season 6-3 overall.
“I’m proud of these kids,” Anoka coach Bo Wasurick said of his team. “They battled their butts off tonight. They fought hard and never made excuses, even when things got frustrating at times.”
Bern’s first score of the night was a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:44 to go in the first half that tied the score 14-14 at halftime. But the game would continue to swing back-and-forth from there. The Tornadoes tried a fake punt on the opening drive of the second half and came up just short, giving East Ridge the ball at the Anoka 49. Five plays later, Bern scored again — this time from 3 yards out — to put the Raptors on top by 7.
“When they tried the fake punt and we got a huge stop, that got us all hyped and fired up,” Bern said. “It was a big boost.”
But the Tornadoes wasted no time again tying the score. A 30-yard run by junior Zach Welch and a 48-yard catch by classmate Trey Borchers set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Welch on the next possession.
Then, though, it was back to Bern, who scored on an 8-yard touchdown catch with 1:41 to play in the third quarter to put the Raptors back on top 28-21.
“I can’t say enough about (Bern),” said senior quarterback Tanner Zolnosky, who threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 75 yards. “He’s a once-in-a-generation type talent and we’re just blessed to have him on our team.”
Once again, though, Anoka held serve, tying the score at 28 with 10:53 remaining. Yet it was Bern who had the last laugh, scoring for the fourth time to put East Ridge on top to stay.
“The offensive line did a great job of blocking on that play,” Bern said. “I had a cramp midway through the run, but it still worked out.”
Anoka did get the ball back at the Raptors 46 after recovering a fumble with 6:07 remaining, but on the very next play, Zolnosky (playing defense for the first time since his freshman season because of injuries in the secondary) picked off a pass.
The Tornadoes again drove into East Ridge territory on their final possession, but turned the ball over on downs at the 32 with 1:28 to go.
“We’re underdogs and you get to hit the reset button when the playoffs start,” Bern said. “We all believe in ourselves and what this team can do. We showed that tonight.”
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