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KNIGHTS INVADING SL

Move from competitive TVL could lead to more victories for RC

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KNIGHTS INVADING SL

Small-school Ripon Christian had it rough in the rigid Trans Valley League, going 4-16 in its four years in the Division-IV conference. Third-year head coach John Vander Schaaf looks for better day...

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED August 25, 2010 11:23 p.m.
A change of scenery might be exactly what the Ripon Christian football team needs to drive towards a winning season.

Just a few years after the school added a football program for the first time, the Knights had trouble trying to adjust to the schedule in the perennially tough Trans Valley League.

Schools like Escalon, Ripon and Modesto Christian piled up massive wins against the league newcomer who entered the TVL in 2006 after a stint in the Mountain Valley League for the 2004 and 2005 seasons – winning the MVL title in 2005 before changing leagues to join crosstown rival Ripon for the first time.

But with returning players like Isaac Norman expected to lead the team into a new era, the Knights appear more than ready for the challenge in front of them.

“The competition in the Southern League is definitely not going to be as tough as what we’ve come to expect when league comes around,” said RB/DB Norman. “We definitely have a good line this year, and we have guys that are dedicated to working towards a common goal.

“We’re going to enjoy the year as a team and are going to work hard like we do.”

With the addition of former Stanford standout and NFL quarterback Randy Fasani, the Knights improve their already solid coaching staff that includes head coach John Vander Schaaf and defensive coordinator Don Peglow.

Vander Schaaf says that his team has been confident and hard working in both the summer workout sessions and early periods of practice.

“Things have been going really well, and we never really complain about this – we’re blessed to play football,” he said. “One of our biggest strengths this year will be our confidence. If we keep working hard every single play then we aren’t going to have a whole lot of problems adjusting to a new league like the one we’re going to be a part of.

“But at the same time we can’t look past anybody. Every team that you play on Friday night is looking to come away with a win after all of the work that they put in to get to that point. All we can do is start taking things one week at a time.”

And it’s not just Norman that’s returning to the team to help lead the squad into a new era.

Starting outside linebacker and fullback Aaron Fay – one of the biggest players on the team – believes that the motivation implanted in them by the coaches will have a big impact on how the team approaches the season.

“The coaches are really doing a good job of keeping us motivated and keeping practice upbeat for the entire week,” said Fay. “I think that when it comes to me and Isaac working together in the backfield, we’re going to become a really good 1-2 punch against the teams that were going up against.

“As a team we all love competition, and hopefully we’ll be able to come back to a hyper-competitive league like the TVL where you’re looking forward to a dogfight each and every single week that you’re playing against somebody.”

Returning offensive and defensive lineman Elijah English believes that all of the work that the team has put into the offseason will pay dividends when they start squaring off with teams like Delhi, Denair, Gustine, Le Grand, Mariposa, Ripon Christian, Turlock Christian and Waterford.

With his experience at the varsity level going up against the teams in the TVL, English hopes to be able to become a leader on both lines and show the incoming juniors that hard work and dedication will be enough to move towards a successful season in his last year.

“Our summer workouts went well, but it’s kind of hard at this school because our students are scattered out here and there,” English said. “But we’re all here now, and we’re putting in the work that’s needed to succeed.

“I think that the offensive line is going to be one of our big strengths this year, and half of the guys that are expected to start there are juniors and that’s going to leave the team in a good position as they get ready next season. We’re just going to play our game this year against new schools – that’s all that we can really do.”
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