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Ripon expects tough first test on refurbished Stouffer Field
Cole Herrin looks downfield to make a pass during Ripon Highs first week official practices on the varsity baseball outfield grass. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

East Union (0-1) at Orestimba (1-0): Steven Machado has his way with the Lancers as a sophomore in 2011, but Orestimba doesn’t have the overall speed EU saw last week at St. Mary’s (26-14, Orestimba).


Manteca (0-0) at Edison (0-0): It’s Manteca’s size against Edison’s speed. Discipline and hard-nosed defense helped the Buffs win last year’s battle and could be the key to another ‘W’ (24-13, Manteca).


Grace Davis (0-0) at Sierra (1-0): Davis’ best offensive threat from 2011 is now at Central Catholic, and Sierra had little trouble bottling him up and winning decisively (34-14, Sierra).


Lathrop (0-0) at Liberty Ranch (0-1): Third-year Liberty Ranch is looking to build off last year’s successful run, while Lathrop is still trying to break the two-win barrier (35-21, Liberty Ranch).


Weston Ranch (0-0) at Franklin (0-1): The Ranch hasn’t won a season opener since 2005, while Franklin has won just two of its last 28 contests (28-22, Weston Ranch).


Linden (1-0) at Ripon (1-0): Two teams with smash-mouth offenses collide after each had blown out weaker opponents last week. Ripon’s more balanced offense could be the difference (34-28, Ripon).


Elliot Christian (0-0) at Ripon Christian (0-0): This matchup could produce huge offensive numbers with both squads bringing misdirection offenses to the table. RC has game breakers, but Elliot has more depth (35-32, Ripon Christian).


Last week: 3-0 (3-0 overall).


— Jonamar Jacinto

Ripon High’s football team finally stepped foot on Stouffer Field’s new Bermuda Grass last Thursday, Aug. 16.

One noticeable addition, among many, is the scoreboard donated to the Ripon Community Athletic Foundation — a grassroots organization that aims to modernize the 70-year-old stadium — by Pacific, Gas and Electric.

But probably the most welcomed sight was the goal posts. Yes, goal posts.

With the football field undergoing renovations all summer, the freshman, sophomore and varsity squads were forced to practice on the varsity baseball outfield.  So placekicking was understandably behind all other aspects of the Indians’ game during their 45-0 zero-week opening blowout of Bret Harte. The point-after unit failed to convert on two of three tries.

“(Last Thursday) was the first time we were able to kick at real goal posts,” Ripon head coach Chris Johnson said. “We’ve been using PVC pipes attached to the outfield fence.

“Our kids are very excited about the new surface. This project has really energized the entire community.”

This Friday, Ripon will unveil the nearly-finished Phase 1 of the Stouffer Field Revitalization Project and will face a familiar nonleague foe in Linden, which is looking to snap a four-game skid against the Indians.

The Lions are coming off a 56-7 trouncing of Gustine. Are the Lions — postseason qualifiers a year ago — that good, or is the struggling Gustine program just that bad?

“It doesn’t matter who a team plays, if they score almost 60 points their offense is obviously a concern,” said Johnson, whose team opened its 2011 season with a 42-28 win over Linden. “Linden has some good size and pretty good skill players. They are always tough and well coached.

“Our biggest concern is giving up a big play to their veer offense.”

Linden racked up 290 rushing yards against Gustine and was led by standout returner Andrew Lewis’ 100 yards and three touchdowns. Daniel Snider is back behind 6-foot-1, 231-pound center Coby Ott. Two-way linemen such Jacob Lovelace (6-5, 327), Marcus Angele (6-3, 215) and Tanner Eaton (6-3, 231) add considerable size in the trenches.

Despite Ripon’s landslide win last week, Johnson said his team must play better to get past Linden.

“It was nice to start the season off with a big in but we weren’t especially happy with our performance,” he said. “We feel we can play much harder and faster on both sides of the ball. We missed some assignments and were out of position a few times.

“Obviously, our kicking game has to improve and we believe it will. We are looking to be a better football team this week than we were last week.”


East Union at Orestimba

Smarting from a 67-13 loss at St. Mary’s, the Lancers won’t face as tough a test in Newman where they square off with Orestimba for a second straight season.

That’s not to say Orestimba won’t present any challenges. The Warriors are coming off a commanding 38-7 win over Galt, erupting for 29 points in the second quarter before putting it in cruise control. Running back Steven Machado is building off a successful sophomore campaign (1,293 yards, 6 TDs), as he rushed for 188 yards and two TDs last week.  Machado runs behind linemen such as Brad Panelli (6-2, 240), Kevin Tucker (6-4, 260), Ivan Luna (6-2, 250) and tight end Nate Martin (6-2, 225).

Orestimba also showed it can do some damage through the air, as Ernie Esquivez finished with 104 receiving yards and two scores.


Manteca at Edison

The Buffaloes’ roster of 51 players is nearly double the size of Division-I Edison’s 28 despite their school’s smaller enrollment. In addition, the Vikings only return two starters on offense and one on defense.

Edison can still pose some problems with its high-octane spread offense that features a bevy of big-play threats.

Quarterback Julian Garcia is one of four sophomores on the team, and he has big targets such as 6-foot-3, 180-pound senior Jimmy Taylor to throw to. Running back Calvin Gray and Malik McKenzie were part of last year’s 8-1 sophomore squad that beat the eventual Valley Oak League co-champion Buffaloes, 42-28.


Grace Davis at Sierra

Sierra handled the Spartans 40-14 last season, but both squads have undergone considerable change in personnel since.

For Davis, standout RB Rey Vega is now at Central Catholic, leaving the Spartans without their top offensive playmaker. They look to be more balanced with QB Matt Christiansen, one of 11 seniors on the team, running a pro-style offense.

The Timberwolves go in battle tested from last week’s 32-26 win over Tracy. Anthony Cota ran for 181 yards and two TDs, while three passers (including WR Jayson Manuta on a trick play) combined to complete 12 of 19 for 149 yards and two scores.


Lathrop at Liberty Ranch

Two of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s newest schools clash in Galt. Liberty Ranch, a third-year varsity team, is already no stranger to success. In 2011, the Hawks went 9-4, claimed its first Sierra Valley Conference title and reached the semifinal round of the SJS Division IV playoffs.

The good news for Lathrop is that two of Liberty’s top players graduated last year: running backs John Wiernicki (2,562 yards, 40 TDs) and John Kendall (1,096 yards, 9 TDs). The Hawks also have a new head coach in Bryan Golder after Anthony Linebaugh left for a job in Santa Barbara. Quarterback Jacob Tibbetts (1,654 yards, 13 TDs, 5 INTs) and receiver Jake Oliver (528 yards, 5 TDs) are among their top returners.

Liberty Ranch opened its season with a 41-7 loss to Division II Antelope on the road and gave up 381 yards of offense. Lathrop hopes to have the same type of success against the Hawks with its new multi-set offense.


Weston Ranch at Franklin

Franklin suffered a 49-7 defeat at Antioch in Week Zero and didn’t score until the fourth quarter. Antioch passed for 250 yards and rushed for 284.

Weston Ranch hasn’t won an opener since 2005 (36-14 over Natomas) — its second season with a varsity squad. Friday offers a good opportunity to end that streak.

The Yellowjackets went 1-9 in 2011 while navigating through a tough schedule. They tested themselves right away this season with Antioch, so it’s tough to gauge just how good they can be. They have athletes with size and speed and a deeper roster than Weston Ranch’s, but the Cougars have a prolific passing attack with QB James Simerley, WR Kenny Williams and TE Sean Visperas all returning.


Elliot Christian at Ripon Christian

A good first test for RC after putting together its best season in school history. The Eagles of Lodi went 7-4 last season but have a new head coach in Jason Tacderan, who running a pistol offense.

Elliot Christian graduated most of its top offensive weapons from last year, but 5-9, 180-pound Ben Huckaby (663 yards, 9 TDs) returns to anchor the running game.

Ripon Christian, on the other hand, brings back many of its top offensive players such as QB Danny Vos and RB Andrew Brown. The Knights, however, are outnumbered 37-19 roster-wise, so fatigue could play a factor in Saturday’s meeting.