RIPON — Ripon Christian High football coach Trey Ozenbaugh didn’t use the final scrimmage of the summer to size up the competition among the small-school ranks.
He used the test at Escalon High to gauge his program’s offseason growth and to answer one question: Can the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section finalists make another run at the school’s first football banner?
Ozenbaugh is optimistic, pleased with the development of his football team.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to evaluate some of our talent,” he said from behind a floppy sun cap and sunglasses. “We have some holes to fill. Last year we graduated a lot of good football players (from) a team that went to the section title game.”
One vacancy has already been filled.
Former head coach Randy Fasani has returned to Ripon Christian as the offensive coordinator.
Fasani coached the Knights in 2013, guiding the team to a series of historic firsts: the program’s only 10-win season, a Division VI section final appearance, and a 2,000-yard rusher in The Bulletin’s former All-Area MVP Andrew Brown. Ripon Christian was edged by Bradshaw Christian in a shootout, 35-28.
“When I was here before I ran the program as head coach and now I’m going to be the offensive coordinator,” Fasani said. “I’m excited to be coaching with one of my best friends, Trey Ozenbaugh, who is the head coach.”
After the loss in the 2013 section final, Fasani, a fruit and nut tree salesman in the Central Valley, moved with his family to Rocklin to be closer to his hometown of Loomis, home to Del Oro, an 11-time section champion.
Fasani said he volunteered at Del Oro from time to time, but with so much of his work rooted in the southern half of the section, he decided to return to Ripon.
Without much of a commute, Fasani said he now has the time to return to coaching. He also credited the pull of a strong Christian community and a best friend for pulling him back in.
“I’m pumped up to come back and coach high school football. I actually enjoy coaching more than I do playing,” said Fasani, a former Stanford QB who was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the fifth round of the NFL Draft in 2002. “I’m really excited to be the offensive coordinator for the varsity program at Ripon Christian and help out as much as possible.”
Fasani will have some weapons to play with.
Two-way talent Sean McGovern anchors the veteran corps. McGovern, a defensive back and wide receiver, was named to the all-Southern League first team last fall. The team’s leading rusher, Michael Kamps, also returns and should benefit from a strong offensive line.
“We’re going to be strong up front,” said Ozenbaugh, who is 26-19 in four seasons. “We have an offensive and defensive line that will win some ball games for us. We know that's where football games are won.”
Just how many will they win, though? Enough to unseat three-time defending champion Orestimba, which boasts a 21-game league winning streak? Enough to stave off Mariposa and all-league quarterback Colton Weidner?
As long as it stays healthy, Ripon Christian should contend in the Southern League. The Knights rank among the southern section's most successful in the last decade. They've averaged nearly eight wins a season over the last six years and reached the Division VII final last fall. Ripon Christian was thumped by Rio Vista, 56-28.
Despite heavy graduation losses, Ozenbaugh is pleased with the way the program has replenished its ranks, beginning with the key acquisition in the headset.
“I do like what I’ve seen,” Ozenbaugh said.
James Burns has covered high school and collegiate sports in the Central Valley for the last 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @jburns1980.