RIPON — Ripon started and ended the second half with dynamic play.
Unfortunately, that was not enough to overcome an abysmal start, as No. 3 Bear River of Grass Valley eliminated the second-seeded Indians from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs with a 27-14 semifinal win at Stouffer Field.
It’s the third year in the last four that Bear River ended Ripon’s season. The reigning champion Bruins will defend their Division V title against Pioneer Valley League rival Colfax next week — a rematch of the 2017 final.
“They came out ready and we came out flat,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said. “If we would have played in the first half like we did in the second half, maybe it would have been a different story. But we were down so far we couldn’t stick with what we wanted to do.
“We just didn’t play well to start the game and that’s on me. I didn’t prepare them well enough to get ready for the game.”
Although the game had long since been decided, with 1:54 left in the contest the Indians (10-2) gave the hometown fans something to cheer about. Ripon nose guard Larry Etherton scooped up a fumble near the Indians’ 20-yard line and rambled about 5 yards before being hit. He flipped the ball to a trailing Justin Hansen, who scampered 75 yards for the game’s final touchdown.
“I just didn’t want to give up,” Hansen said. “I knew there wasn’t much time left and it wasn’t looking good but I just couldn’t give up on this team.”
Etherton was part of the defensive attack that held the Bruins (11-1) scoreless in the second half.
“At first, I was surprised,” Etherton said. “Then I saw one of my good friends from when I first moved here (Hansen) and I pitched it to him and he took it the rest of the way.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates and that play was definitely one of the highlights of the season.”
Trailing 27-0 at halftime, Ripon wasted little time getting on the board in the second half, covering 58 yards in two plays with Roland Davis (eight carries, 65 yards) carrying the ball the final 7 yards to make the score 27-7.
“Everyone doubted us from the start,” Davis said. “Nobody thought we were going to make it to the playoffs much less this far.”
Daggett (12 carries, 79 yards; 5 of 17 passing, 39 yards, two interceptions) scampered 51 yards to open the second half, setting up the scoring run by Davis.
“In the off-season, we all came together,” Daggett said. “Everyone was working hard and everyone was motivated and we all wanted to win.
“We came out slow tonight so when we came out hard in the second half it was too late.”
It would be hard to imagine a worse start than the one the Indians had. Bear River marched 56 yards in five plays on the game’s opening drive with Calder Kunde (5 of 7 passing, 126 yards, three touchdowns) hitting Dylan Scott (two receptions, 84 yards) on a 45-yard scoring pass to make the score 7-0 with 9:19 left in the opening quarter.
In the next 5 minutes the Bruins would score off of a blocked punt and as the result of an interception for a 21-0 lead with 4:07 still remaining in the first quarter.
Aaron Wood and Troy Brogan both had a fumble recovery for Ripon with Grant Wiebe and Nico Ilardi each coming up with key sacks.
Musseman was appreciative of the success his team had this season.
“It’s been a great year,” Musseman said. “It’s hard to put into words how much I am going to miss this group.”
Ripon 0 0 7 7 — 14
B. River 21 6 0 0 — 27
B — Dylan Scott 45 pass from Calder Kunde (Scott kick), 9:19
B — Jared Baze 20 blocked punt return (Scott kick), 7:21
B — Josiah Cregar 25 pass from Kunde (Scott kick), 4:07.
B — Tre Maronic 4 pass from Calder Kunde (kick fail), 9:59.
R — Roland Davis 7 run (Nathan Valdez kick), 11:25
R — Justin Hansen 75 on lateral from Larry Etherton (Valdez kick), 1:54