Ryan Daggett punched the sky with both arms as Ripon High's junior varsity call-ups raced onto the field to finish a 28-13 victory over Calaveras.
Motivated by a perceived lack of respect from the Sac-Joaquin Section seeding committee, the seventh-seeded Indians proved their worth on a chilly Friday evening in the Mother Lode.
Daggett accounted for two touchdowns, Justin Hansen intercepted two passes that led to scores, and the Indians dominated No. 2 Calaveras from whistle to whistle, 28-13, in their Division V opener.
“The kids played great,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said. “They wanted to keep playing. I’ve been on some teams where the kids start thinking about basketball or something else. This group wants to continue to play.”
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In a busted bracket, Ripon travels to No. 6 Bear River next week. The Bruins (6-5) delivered the first upset, knocking out tournament favorite and defending champion Capital Christian on Thursday.
The Indians struck again for Division V’s lower seeds, collectively 3-1 in the first round. Only No. 8 Highlands was eliminated, suffering a 70-48 loss to No. 1 Sonora.
Ripon (8-3) has no qualms about going back on the road.
The Indians are undefeated away from Stouffer Field this season, a perfect 5-0.
“We haven’t lost on the road yet and we’re ready for some more,” said Michael Winters, whose 51-yard touchdown with about eight minutes left proved to be the knockout blow. “We’re a team. We’ve grown up playing together and we love each other.”
The section seeding committee didn’t do Calaveras any favors, pitting the Mother Lode League runner-up against a Trans-Valley League champion. The seeding didn’t sit well with the Indians, who have thrived on adversity all season.
“As a program and a team, knowing all that they’ve accomplished, they felt like it was a slap in the face,” Musseman said. “The TVL is the hardest small-school conference around. To be No. 1, the kids felt like they deserved better.”
The Indians channeled the frustration into methodical beatdown of Calaveras.
Daggett started the scoring with a 55-yard burst in the second quarter, and then found Roland Davis over the middle to make it 14-7 at the half. Blanketed by defenders, Davis jumped high, reeled in the 17-yard pass and tumbled into the end zone.
Daggett completed eight of his 12 passes for 91 yards. He had another 17-yard completion to Winters late in the third quarter that extended another scoring drive. Riley Machado punctuated the drive with a 1-yard touchdown to make it 21-7.
That time-consuming drive featured steady doses of Dylan Sexton, who converted a fourth-and-1 inside the 10-yardline, and Machado, who softened the defense with his straight-ahead style. Musseman hoped to control the game clock with his bruising backs.
“That was the game plan,” he said. “If they don’t have the ball, they can’t score. There’s nothing more demoralizing than a team getting 4 yards at a time all the way down the football field.”
Winters iced the game with the longest play from scrimmage -- a 51-yard sweep with 7:59 remaining. The run was set up by Hansen’s fifth interception of the season.
On the sideline, Musseman and his staff could sense a knockout.
“At that point, they still had a chance to get back into the game,” Musseman said. “Michael Winters asked for the play, and it worked out for him.”
Like many of his teammates, Winters wanted to send a message to a wide-open Division V bracket.
“I didn’t think we deserved the seven seed. We were mad about that,” he said. “The coaches wanted to put the nail in the coffin and that’s what we did.”
Tristen Madsen (55-yard punt return) and Chance Norton (4-yard rush) scored touchdowns for Calaveras (9-2), which finished the game without starting quarterback Kyle Byrd. He was knocked out of the game in the third quarter after taking a hit on the sideline.
Byrd had to be carried through the handshake line by teammates.
Defensively, Ripon pinned Calaveras. The Indians forced two turnovers, blocked a field goal, and gave up just six points.
“We wanted to win this game,” Davis said with a matter-of-fact tone. “We won the TVL and they made us a seven seed? We needed to prove a point. We wanted to prove we are better than a seven seed -- and better than this team.”