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Ryder Hernandez shines in Cedar Park win over Cedar Ridge

Colby Gordon
American-Statesman Correspondent
Cedar Park receiver Gunnar Abseck gets flipped on his way to the first touchdown of the game during the Timberwolves' 28-14 win over Cedar Ridge Friday at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex.

When you play Cedar Park, you know what you’re going to get. It’s just a matter of whether you can do anything about it.

To Cedar Ridge’s credit, the Raiders played solidly on defense and did some nice things on offense to hang around against the Timberwolves Friday at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex.

But in the end, Cedar Park star quarterback Ryder Hernandez threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns and the Timberwolves defense had nine sacks during a 28-14 win.

“We know we have a really good team, and we have (big goals),” said Hernandez, who spread his touchdowns around to four different receivers while completing 21 of 32 passes. “It’s just us coming out every week and putting to work what we’ve been doing in practice all week and executing. If we execute, I don’t feel there are too many teams in the state who can stop us.”

A week after opening the season with a 21-7 win over Vandegrift, the Timberwolves beat a perennial Class 6A playoff team for the second straight week, and the scary part for District 11-5A Division I is that Cedar Park’s coaches think there is still room for improvement.

“We played well at times, and then there’s other times where we left a lot of opportunities on the field,” Cedar Park coach Carl Abseck said. “Cedar Ridge is a really good football program … but I feel like we have a lot more in the tank. If we can clean up mistakes and some inconsistencies, we’ll be a really good football team.”

The Raiders would probably argue Cedar Park was a really good team Friday, especially the Timberwolves’ front seven, which constantly had Cedar Ridge quarterback Joaquin Sandoval under pressure.

“This was their first live game, and I’m not sure they were ready for what was coming,” said Cedar Park senior defensive lineman Hunter Hewitt, who played a factor in several of the team’s nine sacks. “As a defense, our confidence is high because we push ourselves every day in practice. We feel we’re in better condition than our opponents and just try to tear them down so they get tired before us.”

Cedar Ridge, though, stayed competitive the whole game and wasn’t out of it until Hernandez’s scrambling 61-yard touchdown pass to Jack Hestera midway through the fourth.

“I thought we played aggressive and made some good things happen on both sides of the ball,” Cedar Ridge coach Sam Robinson said. “But we also made too many mistakes on both sides of the ball, and Cedar Park is too good of a team to do that against and still come out with a win.”

Hernandez hit Gunnar Abseck for a 13-yard TD to cap off a 61-yard drive and open the scoring on the Timberwolves’ first drive of the game.

Cedar Ridge answered with a 74-yard touchdown march, with Dylan Morello sprinting 37 yards up the middle to tie the contest.

Hernandez threw scoring passes of 16 yards to Preston Scott and 42 yards to Tristan Hervey in the second quarter, the latter of which was also a play that broke down and saw Hernandez scramble out of the pocket.

“On both the touchdowns where I was flushed out of the pocket, our wideouts did a great job of getting back to me and finding the open spots in the defense,” Hernandez said.

Meanwhile, the Cedar Park defense clamped-down until late in the third quarter, when the Raiders got back within 21-14 on Joseph Captain’s 2-yard touchdown plunge.

However, Cedar Ridge never threatened to score the rest of the way and Hernandez’s long connection with Hestera sealed the Timberwolves’ win.

Hestera finished with seven catches for 145 yards while Gunnar Abseck hauled in seven passes for 102 yards for Cedar Park, which opens District 11-5A Division I with a massive game against Georgetown Friday.

“You have to feel good heading into district play after beating two good Class 6A teams,” Carl Abseck said. “Offensively, though, we do have to clean up some stuff. But I think we’re real close to putting up a lot of points.”

DJ Rountree led Cedar Ridge (0-1) with seven catches for 114 yards, with Morello adding 96 yards on the ground and Sandoval passing for 185 yards.

After just one game, the Raiders jump into District 25-6A play next week against Round Rock.

“I’d like to have another game, but Cedar Park is a good team to get us ready for a tough district,” Robinson said. “For the first game out tonight, I saw a lot of good things from our team. Once we get those first-game mistakes out of the way, I feel like we have a chance to be all right. We have new players all over the place, but the kids were ready to play, and I think we showed some talent.”

Cedar Park receiver Jack Hestera races away from Cedar Ridge defenders during the Timberwolves' 28-14 win Friday at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex.