RIPON -- There's a sense of history gathering around the Ripon High football team.
Each week, including following Friday night's 42-7 romp over Hilmar, they assemble immediately following the final gun to sing the school hymn an old practice the team hasn't embraced in years.
There's a line in that song that goes "Forever and ever, within our hearts we'll hold the Mission's traditions of old."
Indians quarterback Kyle Wengel admitted to not having any idea to what "the Mission's traditions" refers.
For all intents, it could mean a mission to shatter all Trans-Valley League tradition by having a Ripon High team complete a perfect regular season.
Actually, it's a reference to the 102-year-old school's first major building, torn down in the mid-1960s, that resembled a California Mission. And it's been about that long since the school has had a team embark on any kind of campaign to match this one.
"We have a seventh period workout period with Coach (Chris) Johnson and we've always had the song up on the wall, and no one ever sang it," Wengel said. "He brought it back this year and told us we're singing it after the game."
The Indians improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the TVL with games at home against Riverbank and at Orestimba to finish the season. If current projections hold, two more wins would make them the No. 1 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs.
"We can't get comfortable," Wengel said. "Riverbank's going to come at us next week and then we have to stop Orestimba's running back. We have to keep doing what we're doing."
Ripon didn't achieve any level of comfort against Hilmar (6-2, 2-2) until the final moments of the first half.
Michael Ysit returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a Ripon score, but the Yellowjackets dominated the rest of the first quarter, pounding the middle for 111 rushing yards to set up Breck Smith's game-tying 3-yard run on the second play of the second quarter.
The rest of the game belonged to Ripon, which scored the final 35 points to beat the Yellow Jackets for the first time in at least 10 years. That's how long Frank Marques has been Hilmar's head coach, and it's the first time he's been on the losing end of a score against the Indians.
"It's Ripon's turn and I wish them great luck in their run to the section," Marques said. "They're well balanced, and you have to have that to be a really good team. We had a good gameplan, but they wore us out. It was the kind of game where you just have to tip your hat to your opponent."
The Indians began to crowd the line of scrimmage to turn Hilmar's 8-yard runs into 2-yard gains, and dared the Jackets to pass. It never happened, and Hilmar completed two of 11 passes for 6 yards.
Hilmar did stop Ripon's running game, holding the Indians to 69 rushing yards, but the cost was allowing Wengel to move his team easily through the air. The senior completed 18 of 26 passes for 222 yards and three scores.
His biggest throw came with the Indians holding a 14-7 lead late in the second quarter. Ripon took over at its own 39 with 2:19 left, and Wengel completed six straight passes to move the ball to the Hilmar 23 with 10 seconds remaining.
On the next play, he rolled right and threw a strike to Bradley Clark in the back right corner of the end zone, giving the Indians a 21-7 lead at halftime.
Hilmar never again threatened to score, and as the Indians pulled away with two fourth quarter scores they forced the Jackets to four straight three-and-out possessions.
"We were afraid all week of their Power-I and their ability to come out and chunk us," said Johnson, who in his ninth season at Ripon is looking for his first league crown. "We don't have a lot of strength up front, which has caused people to doubt our line all year. But you can't argue with 8-0. It means we're doing something right up front."
It also means the Indians are two wins away from composing another historic tune.
Ripon's Kyle Wengel tosses a short touchdown pass to Michael Morris