By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Cole Ridgway moved to Norman almost a year ago, and the junior admits he was a little lost in his first few weeks. Looking for a change, his family moved to Norman without knowing anyone in the area, and the change in schools wasn’t easy.
So it was only natural for Ridgway, who in his freshman year played football at a Class B school in Nebraska, to return to something he knew well. That meant a trip to Norman High football coach Greg Nation’s office, and a short time later to the locker room, where he was instantly accepted by his new teammates.
“All the guys accepted me and I made a lot of different friends on the team,” Ridgway said. “After moving and not knowing anyone, it definitely helped me out.”
Now Ridgway is returning the favor.
After securing the starting job at right tackle early in the season, Ridgway has only improved as the season has gone on. As a member of the offensive line for the Tigers, an offense that relies heavily on the option run, Ridgway’s success is a major factor in whether or not the Tigers are able to move the ball down the field.
And he’s done an exceptional job at that, something that not many would have predicted a year ago. Ridgway, who hit a big growth spurt in his freshman year, was still adjusting to his new 6-3, 295-pound frame, and at times that made him look almost clumsy as he struggled to adjust, Nation said.
“He had a hard time for a little while, but he’s really improved quickly,” said Nation, who nicknamed Ridgway “Big Cat” in one of his first practices. “Now, he’s not just OK; he does a good job of running now. He’s kind of a gentle giant, and it’s great to have him on that right side of the line.”
His impact has been felt. The eighth-ranked Tigers are 7-2 this season and all of the wins have come behind a dominant triple-option rushing attack that wouldn’t be possible without Ridgway’s contributions. In the past four games alone, he’s recorded nine “big blocks,” the statistic the coaches use to describe blocks that either left the defender on the ground or opened up a big run for the Tigers. And what may be most impressive is how Ridgway has improved as the season has progressed, grading out better and better every game.
It’s not a position Ridgway expected to be in. At his former school in Nebraska, there were barely enough players to form a team, so he didn’t face any competition for a spot on the line. That made it all too easy to simply “go through the motions” in practice, a far cry from the intensity of Tiger practices.
“Getting here and having that competition made me really work hard,” he said. “I knew if I wanted to play I would need to fix the mistakes and I was making and improve every day. So I focused every day in practice on getting better in every drill.”
It’s paid off for Ridgway, who has become an indispensable member of an offense that will face one of its tougher challenges of the season when NHS hosts Lawton on Friday.
“With our backs, all we have to do is make a small hole and they’ll be gone,” Ridgway said. “That’s what we’re focused on for Friday; giving them chances and completing our drives.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com
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