RIPON — Ripon beat Escalon last season for the first time in 16 years.
But it's been at least 45 years since the Indians truly dominated the Cougars on the gridiron, which was the case in Friday night's 35-3 Ripon victory at Stouffer Field.
With senior nose tackle Kody Day disrupting nearly every Escalon play with a quick and overpowering bull rush, the Indians limited Escalon's wing-T attack to 31 yards on 34 rushing attempts.
This victory in the opening week of Trans-Valley League play allowed Ripon now winners of a Stanislaus District-best 19 straight regular season games to loudly announce its intent to make a run at a second straight TVL title.
The Indians last regular season loss? It came the last time Escalon visited Ripon, during the 2011 season.
"Escalon has been the measuring stick for 20 years, not just in the TVL but in the section," said Ripon coach Chris Johnson, whose Indians improved to 5-0 overall.
"This is a big win for us. Everybody wondered how good we were coming into this game because of the schedule we played. I think we found out tonight that we're a pretty good football team."
The Indians' preseason schedule was soft for a team with title aspirations, but they cruised through it, outscoring opponents 192-26.
And have no doubts, Day is the major reason Ripon's defense has been so stingy.
With the 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior three-year starter getting into the backfield on nearly every play, the offense is forced to test the edges.
But the Indians are so fast on defense, they'll beat most teams to the sidelines.
"That's exactly how our defense is designed," Day said. "If I can do that, then teams have to adjust to what I'm doing. If they can run against it, then it means I have to step it up."
The Cougars (2-3) had no answer for Day and the Ripon defense.
"He's quick and he bullrushes with great balance," said Escalon coach Mark Loureiro. "Our center is good and he's a strong kid, but (Day) is just too quick off the ball. That took away all the misdirection, all the trap plays because his penetration doesn't allow the guards our tight end to pull. That alone cut out a lot of what we can do."
Ripon led 7-3 at halftime, despite holding Escalon to 14 rushing yards, then went three-and-out on its first drive. But with the Cougars at their own 17, Day had the play of the game.
He timed the snap and caught up with Escalon quarterback Ben Hood on the second step of a three-step drop. Day flicked the ball out of Hood's right hand, then pounced on it at the 5.
Two plays later sophomore quarterback Nick Price scored on a 4-yard run and the Indians led 14-3.
"I've been doing this since about fourth grade, playing nose tackle and blowing things up," Day said. "On that play they showed a type of motion that tells us they're going on the first sound. I timed the snap, came through with a rip, saw the ball come loose and jumped on it. I did my thing."
The play took the heart out of Escalon, and Ripon quickly took control. Two plays into the next drive Michael Ysit burst over right tackle and outsprinted the defense for a 49-yard score and a 21-3 lead.
Ysit, a senior two-way starter, is the district's stat monster. Through five games he's carried 31 times for 654 yards, or about an inch more than 21 yards per carry.
Escalon's next drive ended with junior Ryan Fugit intercepting a Hood pass and returning it 66 yards for a 28-3 lead with 10:34 left in the game.
Both teams' reserves played from that point on, and Ripon's Davis Armstrong capped the scoring with a 3-yard run in the final minutes, ending a night in which the Indians outgained Escalon 255-100.
"They have the guy in the middle who raises hell on everybody on film and they're so athletic, they can run you down sideline to sideline," Loureiro said. "They took it to us."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek