WATERFORD -- As Dylan Gonzalez approached the goal line on his fourth and final score of Waterford's 49-7 blitz of Ripon Christian, the eyes of the senior running back began to veer slightly to the right.
There, in the extreme southeast corner of the field, he saw the spot where he blew out his right knee in the fourth week of his junior season.
What followed was major reconstructive surgery and months of intense rehabilitation just to get a chance to play football again. But now, other than a black metal brace that offers the knee a little additional protection, you wouldn't know Gonzalez ever was injured.
That run, a 55-yard burst with 1 minute, 34 seconds, left in the third quarter, was his final carry of the game. It capped a 19-carry, 222-yard effort, which boosted his season total to 1,093 yards through the Wildcats' first eight games.
"It feels so good to be healthy," Gonzalez said. "I had a good sophomore year and last year I was hoping would be my coming out. I went down in that same corner of the end zone where I scored my last touchdown. I'm just so happy."
That was a feeling echoed by all the Wildcats after a shockingly easy victory. Waterford, at 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Southern League, is Division 5 playoff eligible. Ripon Christian, also 6-2, 4-1, also will be headed to the postseason, but it could be as a favorite in Division 6.
The Knights are on the enrollment bubble between the two divisions, and they likely won't know to which bracket they'll be headed until the seeds are announced. What is certain is that in Friday night's game, they were overwhelmed by a very physical Waterford team.
"In every facet of the game they were better than us, and that was pretty obvious," said RC coach John Vander Schaaf. "We didn't get any stops, we couldn't field the ball on kickoffs it was offense and defense. Give them the credit. They came out and stuck it to us."
The Knights committed five turnovers, but even had they held onto the ball it was quite possible they wouldn't have had much more success against the Wildcats.
"We didn't expect this kind of game at all," said Waterford linebacker Alvah Stanfield. "We expected it to be close, but we practiced hard and stayed in focus all week. In the third and fourth quarters, even though we were ahead, we never lagged."
Ripon Christian scored first, on a 27-yard pass from Danny Vos to running back Andrew Brown, but the two Knights' stars were held in check. Brown gained 78 yards on 20 bruising carries to join Gonzalez in this season's 1,000-yard club.
But between Gonzalez and running mate Branson Angle (seven rushes, 78 yards), Waterford dominated the Knights behind its five returning starters on the offensive line.
Gonzalez scored three rushing touchdowns and added another receiving, while Angle, Jesus Vega and quarterback Josh Hickman also scored as the Wildcats ripped off the final 49 points.
"The offensive line is amazing," Gonzalez said. "They're digging deep in the trenches and when we're in the huddle, I look them in the eyes when we need something, and that's all I need to do because they have it. What I do is no work because of what the line does. All I do is run."
Gonzalez ran for 1,439 yards as a sophomore and added 576 last season before his injury. Including his output against RC, he's slashed for 3,108 career yards.
"I had knee surgery, six months rehabilitation and physical therapy every day," Gonzalez said. "I've hit it so hard and I've worked my butt off. I couldn't walk for three months, but as soon as I could walk I took on a physical trainer, and he gave me all the resources I needed to get back.
"It feels good to top 1,000 yards, but we're not nearly done."
Waterford's Dylan Gonzalez scores second TD. (Brian VanderBeekfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Waterford's Dylan Gonzalez scores first TD. (Brian VanderBeekemail@example.com)