RIPON — Ripon was able to survive all 12 rounds in its rematch Friday with Mother Lode League heavyweight Sonora at Stouffer Field.
The result was the same, a bitter defeat, though not entirely. Sonora had a tougher time shaking the pesky Indians in the 48-33 win, the first of the season for the Wildcats, but it’s a far cry from the 69-7 pasting they delivered a year ago.
“We were better prepared for this game, we just need to work harder,” Ripon’s Roland Davis said. “What we learned from this game is that we have to start out faster. Obviously, we did way better in the second half, but we have to play our best for the whole game.”
Sonora (1-2) scored 28 unanswered points to build a commanding 35-6 lead with 3:46 left in the third quarter, but Ripon quarterback Ryan Daggett, Davis and the rest of the Indians (2-1) continued to scrap. Daggett threw for three touchdowns in the final period, and two of them were electrifying catch-and-runs on 65- and 49-yard plays up the middle from the speedy Davis (137 receiving yards, 23 rushing).
The Indians trailed 41-26 with 2:04 remaining, and after Sonora recovered the onside kick bruising fullback Jack Camara rumbled his way to a 49-yard touchdown on the next play to ice it.
Camara (12 rushes, 112 yards, two TDs) was one of three Sonora rushers to eclipse the century mark, joining big-play threat Kane Rodgers (128 rushing yards; 83 receiving, two total TDs) and quarterback Jake Gookin (3-of-7 passing, 101 yards, TD; 102 rushing yards, TD). C.J. Castleman added 75 yards and two scores, and the Wildcats’ option offense totaled 537 yards on the ground.
“That’s a good football team that runs an offense we see once a year,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said. “It’s a hard offense to defend and they coach it very well. They caught us a couple times, guys were confused with their assignments, but I think this is a great stepping-off point for us.
“It’s the first game all year we had serious adversity and had to fight back. We had to throw the ball. We worked on a lot of stuff tonight and we got better on a lot of things, so that’s the positive we’re going to take out of it. Our kids now know they can play with that team.”
While Ripon effectively moved the chains with outside running in its two wins this season, the Indians were able to grind out tough yards between the tackles and throw it downfield. The Indians rushed for 195 yards with fullback Dylan Sexton’s 60 yards on 10 carries leading the charge.
Daggett passed for 302 yards and four touchdowns, both career highs, completing 12 of 24 attempts. His 71-yard bomb to sophomore Dorian Dougherty (three catches, 96 yards) on third-and-long capped Ripon’s first drive of the game, closing the Indians in, 7-6. Daggett later hit Tino Raygoza (three receptions, 45 yards) for a 10-yard score.
“He came through when we needed it,” Musseman said of Daggett, who was sacked just once. “We worked real hard with the offense line to protect him and that really showed tonight. It kind of opens up our offense.”
Ripon had chances to be in the game by halftime when Sonora led 21-6.
Down 14-6 midway through the second period, Sexton was dropped by Rodgers and Camara for a 3-yard loss on fourth-and-goal at the 1. The Wildcats continued to build on the momentum, starting their next drive with a 46-yard pass play to Rodgers.
Sonora was then faced with a third-and-10 situation from the Ripon 30. Gookin’s deep pass to Evan Bearden was well off the mark, but the Ripon defense was penalized for roughing the passer. The Wildcats made it hurt two plays later when Castleman sprinted to the end zone from 16 yards out.
“We have to score from the 1-yard line, Musseman said.” It’s a different game if we could tie it up midway through the second quarter.
“We didn’t play a very good first and that was the story of the game,” Musseman added. “I think our kids, as much as they tried to hide it, last year was still in their heads a little bit and it took us until halftime to realize that we can play with these guys, and in the second half we did. I couldn’t be more proud of the way the kids played in the second half, we just didn’t execute in the first half and it cost us.”