Ryan Daggett made a mistake and bobbled the hand-off.
Fortunately for the Ripon senior quarterback, he recovered and ran 31 yards into the end zone unscathed for the Indians (5-0, 1-0), who remained undefeated with a 23-21 win over Hilmar (4-1, 0-1) to open Trans Valley League play on Friday.
Hilmar entered Friday as the Bee’s No. 1 ranked medium-school team while Ripon was No. 3.
“It wasn’t supposed to go to me,” Daggett said. “It was supposed to go to the fullback but I messed up the hand-off and took it myself.”
Daggett had two touchdowns for the fifth straight game and now has 12 this year.
“Ryan has come through in clutch situations for us all season,” Indians coach Chris Musseman said. “We need him to do that and it’s a big part of what we do offensively and he stepped up big tonight.”
Daggett’s touchdown run gave the Indians a nine-point lead with 1:42 left in the game but the Yellowjackets scored on a Justin Rentfro 1-yard touchdown run 38 seconds later to cut the lead two, giving them a chance to get the ball back if they could recover the onside kick.
The kick went out of bounds and the Indians ran the clock out to start the TVL season with a big win.
“It was a great way to start off league play,” Musseman. “We played probably the best team we are going to see ... I say that but there are three more teams that are coming up the road. Hilmar is going to go deep in the playoffs.”
It was an ideal start for the Indians.
After a Justin Hansen interception, senior Roland Davis scored on a 20-yard touchdown run to give Ripon a 7-0 lead with 5:20 left in the first quarter.
On the first play of the next possession, Hilmar senior Issac Sharp made a couple of defenders miss with some flashy cuts and sprinted down the left sideline for a 68-yard touchdown run to tie the game of seven.
Sharp had four runs of over 30 yards and finished with 16 carries for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite allowing a couple of big plays, the Indians defense clamped down in the red zone and forced a turnover on downs in the second quarter and blocked a field goal in the third.
“Our defense played great all night,” Musseman said. “We struggled a little bit in the fourth quarter and when you are suiting up 21 guys, you get tired in the fourth quarter. We had guys in the game that hadn’t played much. It was a battle tonight and it took all 21 guys to get through this game. “
A momentum shift occurred late in the third quarter when the Yellowjackets had Ripon with a third-and-long but Daggett found a wide open Nico Ilardi for 30 yards and the score to give the Indians a 17-7 lead.
“They had their safety and they took him with the motion to hopefully to stop the run and we just ran the receiver across and he was left unguarded,” Daggett said.
Daggett said after the game that Friday’s win was big for the team.
“It sends a message to the rest of the league and it boosts our confidence a ton,” he said.
Ripon is at Riverbank next week while Hilmar travels to face Escalon.