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Ilardi, Ripon get passing game on track in lopsided win over Sonora
Bulletin football 2019
Ripon receiver Dorian Dougherty gets behind Sonora defensive back Colby Brouchard and makes a one-handed grab on his way to a 66-yard touchdown. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

RIPON — Nico Ilardi and the rest of the Ripon offense got to stretch their wings a little more Friday in a 55-14 walloping of Sonora.
After missing his first two passes of the game, the senior quarterback finished 6 of 8 for 216 yards and three touchdowns to go with two rushing scores — all in the first half. All of his scoring completions went to Dorian Dougherty, whose 182 receiving yards were recorded in the opening quarter.
“We’ve had that connection since sixth grade when we were playing Pop Warner football and it was working real well tonight,” Ilardi said. “It was good to open it up. We had some better competition out here tonight and we knew we were going to have to throw it on them a little bit, and we’re glad to be able to.”
Ripon (2-0) rumbled for 459 yards of offense en route to another running-clock victory. In their 52-6 zero-week triumph over Weston Ranch, the Indians ran just 27 offensive plays with only 17 involving first-team players.
“There weren’t a whole lot of opportunities last week,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said. “Tonight, (Ilardi) got put into some situations where he had to make some decisions and he did a great job. That kid is the smartest football player I’ve ever been around.”
The five-time defending Mother Lode League champion Wildcats (0-2) put up some resistance at the start. Justin Morgan returned a kickoff 99 yards to keep Sonora in reach at 20-14 with 2:39 left in the first.
That was the third of three consecutive momentum-shifting plays. Sonora, trailing 14-7, threatened to even it up when running back Elijah MacDonald broke into the open field in Ripon territory but fumbled the ball. Mason Knight came up with the recovery for Ripon.
On the next play, Dougherty made an extraordinary one-handed grab while on the run up the middle of the field. He secured it at around the Sonora 40 and sprinted for a 66-yard touchdown.
“In practice I try to replicate the one-handed catch, I mean, you see it all the time in the NFL,” Dougherty said. “I told the coaches I wanted to get a one-handed catch in at least once this year and I got one, so I’m happy.”
Dougherty registered his third touchdown with 1:19 left in the first, this time a 77-yard catch-and-run.
It was all Indians from there, as they took advantage of three more turnovers — two fumbles recovered by linebacker Grant Wiebe and one by Danny Hernandez. Wiebe also blocked a punt that was retrieved by Jeremiah Willey on the Sonora 1. That set up Ilardi’s second rushing TD, giving Ripon a 41-14 halftime lead.
Hernandez (five rushes, 147 yards) implemented the running clock with his 84-yard touchdown jaunt on the first play of the second half. Reserve quarterback Aaron Wood (six rushes, 45 yards) added a 2-yard TD in the fourth quarter, and Brandon Rainer contributed a 9-yard scoring scamper during the early flurry.
Morgan rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts for Sonora, which was held to 208 rushing yards and 0-for-3 passing.
“It took us a little bit to get going, but that’s a really well-coached football team that has been winning for years,” Musseman said. “We didn’t know after last week if we could get through a four-quarter game with our small roster … our kids showed a lot of heart tonight.”
Ripon had one more highlight late in the contest with the outcome already decided. Ashley Espinoza nearly had her first-ever reception on Ripon’s final drive of the game but did come up with her first tackle — and it was a touchdown-saving solo stop. She was able to bring down 6-foot-2, 200-pound Riley Paz on a 16-yard gain. Espinoza is listed at 5-2, 130.
“This is the first game she’s been in,” Musseman said. “She was injured last week, she has never played football before and she got to play a quarter and a half tonight. That was awesome.”

Sonora 14  0  0 0 — 14
Ripon   27 14 7 7 — 55

First quarter
R—Dorian Dougherty 39 pass from Nico Ilardi (Nathan Valdez kick), 6:33.
S—Justin Morgan 65 run (Riley Keaster kick), 4:52.
R—Brandon Rainer 9 run (Valdez kick), 4:05.
R—Dougherty 66 pass from Ilardi (kick blocker), 2:54.
S—Morgan 99 kickoff return (Keaster kick), 2:39.
R—Dougherty 77 pass from Ilardi (Valdez kick), 1:19.

Second quarter
R—Ilardi 7 run (Valdez kick), 9:05.
R—Ilardi 1 run (Valdez kick), 2:04.

Third quarter
R—Danny Hernandez 84 run (Valdez kick), 11:19.

Fourth quarter
R—Aaron Wood 2 run (Valdez kick), 5:11.