GARDEN VALLEY – The Ripon Christian Knights relied on a strong second-half surge to roll past Golden Sierra in Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoff opener.
Ripon Christian (9-2), seeded No. 5, used a ball-control offense while making the necessary adjustments on defense in the 34-13 victory over the No. 4 Grizzlies.
Golden Sierra (8-3) was its own worst enemy, committing four turnovers to go with 171 yards tacked off in penalties.
The turning point came late in the third.
Kevin Kramer, who carried most of the offensive load – an injury limited Brian Sytsma to just defense – had a stellar performance, gaining 124 yards on 24 carries while scoring three times.
“Today’s my birthday,” he added.
Ripon Christian trailed 7-0 early on when Dominic Chamberlain, on a fourth-and-short, broke loose on 78-yard run.
Golden Sierra, running out of a “Cox’s Box” offense, had control of the ground game throughout the first half.
“We wanted to get up early and get (the Grizzlies) out of their offense,” said Ripon Christian coach Trey Ozenbaugh.
That part of it didn’t materialize until later in the game.
The Knights tied the game at 7-7 on quarterback Billy Marr’s 3-yard run in the second.
Golden Sierra answered back with Chamberlain’s second TD and stopped Ripon Christian inside its 10 by halftime.
But that changed in the third.
Kramer gave the Knights their first lead of the game with a short run.
The Grizzlies attempted to answer back only to have the ball stripped loose by Jonah Lewis, who also came up with the fumble.
Ripon Christian drove the field aided by a face-mask penalty. Kramer’s TD made it 20-13.
The Knights had Golden Sierra pinned down, taking over the ball at the Grizzly 18.
On the next play, Kramer stuck the dagger in Golden Sierra with an 18-yard touchdown.
Forced to pass, Ripon Christian waited for the opportune time on defense. But none was bigger than Sytsma’s 45-yard pickoff for a score.
Lewis and Ty Beiderman also had interceptions for Ripon Christian down the stretch.