Following his team’s 49-14 thumping of Modesto Christian on Friday night, Ripon coach Chris Johnson talked about parity in the Trans-Valley League.
“On any given night, anybody can beat anybody,” said Johnson, whose Indians can clinch the TVL’s No. 1 playoff seed by beating Escalon on Friday or Hughson on Nov. 6. “This is the most parity I’ve seen in this league in 15 years.”
While walking across the field toward the locker room, Johnson asked for an update on the Hilmar-Hughson game being played 20 miles to the southeast. The answer proved his point: “Tied at 36 going into overtime,” was the response. Hilmar would go on to win 43-42.
“See?” said Johnson, whose team is now 5-3 and 3-0 in the TVL. “See what I mean about parity?”
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It was the second consecutive overtime loss for the Huskies, who fell 48-47 to the Crusaders last week. And Modesto Christian coach Mike Parsons believes the physical toll that last week’s OT thriller took on his team carried over against Ripon.
“I think it caught up to us tonight,” said Parsons, whose team suited just 18 players. “I thought we were flat tonight.
“But they’re definitely a good team. They play sound football and they’re well coached. Chris does a good job with them.”
Modesto Christian (3-5, 2-1) fell behind 21-7 late in the first quarter on the second of three Caleb McCusker rushing tochdowns. But the Crusaders countered with a 12-play, 67-yard march capped by Chris Brown’s two-yard burst into the end zone with 9:37 to play in the first half to make it a one-score margin.
The Crusaders embarked on another impressive drive into the red zone midway through the second. But Luis Candido intercepted a Bransen Reynolds pass – Matthew Ysit picked off Reynolds in the first quarter – and the Indians set up shop at their own 32 with 1:31 left before half.
Quarterback Nick Price executed the two-minute offense to perfection and Ripon had first-and-goal at the MC 3.
The Indians gained two yards on first down but were stuffed for no gain on second down. They used their last timeout on third-and-goal with 7.8 seconds left in the first half.
A false-start penalty backed up Ripon, but it might have worked to its advantage. Instead of trying to pound up the middle, Price took a short drop and calmly hit Jacob Duxbury in the flat for an easy score, making it 28-14.
“I talked about this with (Oakdale coach) Trent Merzon over the summer,” Johnson said. “When you can score just before halftime, it does something to the psyche of your opponent.”
“That definitely hurt,” Parsons said. “It was a stab in the heart for our guys.”
If the TD was a stab in the heart, then the punch to the ribs was Ripon’s up-tempo offense that utterly gassed Modesto Christian.
Starting in the third quarter, the Indians would race back to the line of scrimmage after every play and hike the ball a split second after the umpire had placed it on the ground.
“With such a small roster, we tried to affect the tempo and tire them out,” said Duxbury, who also scored on 57-yard scamper in the first quarter and hauled in a 26-yard strike in the third. “This was a huge win for us. For our defense to shut down one of the best offenses in the league, and for our offense to come in and score on nearly every possession, is huge going into next week.”