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The Knight is young

Ripon Christian rode explosive sophomore to new heights

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The Knight is young

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED December 24, 2011 1:47 a.m.

The numbers are staggering:

•210 rushes, 1,718 yards (8.2 per carry), 28 touchdowns — all new single-season school records.

•34 receptions, 566 yards, six touchdowns — all team-highs.

•18 kickoff returns, 672 yards (37.3 per attempt), two touchdowns.

•Five interceptions, two returned for scores.

•Forty all-purpose touchdowns.

All this coming from a 5-foot-10, 175-pound sophomore who admits his size is exaggerated on the official team roster.

By the way, his 248 points top all other sophomores in California.

Meet Ripon Christian’s Andrew Brown, the Manteca Bulletin’s pick for the 2011 All-Area Football MVP award.

The running back/cornerback was on no one’s radar to start the year, but the Ripon Christian coaching staff knew it was on to something. It was a calculated risk moving him up to the varsity team and it paid off.

“I was told that if I try my hardest I can do some great things,” Brown said. “So I tried my hardest and some cool stuff happened.”

Jeremy Byrd told him that. You may remember the name. He followed Ted King as the fledgling program’s head coach and held the position for two years, guiding the Knights to their first-ever postseason appearance in 2005.

Byrd is now an athletic trainer who was welcomed back to the staff by fifth-year head coach Jon Vander Schaaf to serve as wide receiver coach. He is one of many who helped mold Brown into a dynamic football player.

Brown will be the first to tell you that the offensive line — led by brutes such as 6-5, 265-pound Jordan Goslinga and 6-1, 230-pound Anton den Dulk — and quarterback Danny Vos are more responsible for his and the team’s breakout season.

He will also tell you he is the beneficiary of a creative offensive scheme contrived by former Stanford quarterback Randy Fasani, who prepped at Del Oro of Loomis.

“It was the perfect storm,” Brown said. “Everything fell into place.”

The usually-outspoken Brown speaks humbly of his own personal success, but he deserves credit, too.

Two special teams plays in particular were proof his athletic prowess and cerebral approach to the game. One just so happens to be his first play as a varsity player, and the other was his last special-teams return of the season.

At the start of Ripon Christian’s zero-week opener against Big Valley Christian, a communication breakdown led to a brief scare as the ball bounced between Brown and a teammate on the opening kickoff.

“I thought, ‘What a nice way to start the season,’” Brown said.

Brown picked it up at the 10-yard-line and sprinted through a gap up the middle for a 90-yard touchdown.

He didn’t slow down since.

In the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI semifinals, which followed RC’s first playoff win in school history, Brown sparked the Knights with a thrilling 97-yard kickoff return to begin the second half. Eventual section champ Bradshaw Christian appeared to be well on its way to an easy win at halftime well ahead, 33-12.  Brown scored three times over the final two quarters to give the underdogs hope.

It was Brown’s only return of the game. Bradshaw had otherwise avoided chasing him around by kicking off to other areas of the field, even attempting a few onside plays and pooch kicks.

Brown came up with a solution on the fly.

“When they kicked it deep they’d kick it to Brandon Dotinga’s side,” Brown said. “So I told him as soon as the kicker puts his head down let’s switch sides.

“Doing that was fun, and I figured that if we’re going to make a comeback we’re going to have fun.”

He has two more years to have fun at Ripon Christian, although he was less-than jovial after the loss at Bradshaw Christian.

“(Byrd) told me to take a three-week break, but I was like, ‘No, I want to go back to work on Monday,’” Brown said. “My whole mindset changed after that game. I’m so hungry for next year. I’m ready right now.”

It turns out he already was.

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