By HEATHER CAMPBELL-O’BRIEN
RIVERBANK — Ripon’s Danny Hernandez returned the opening kickoff 95 yards to start the Indians on their 42-point first half Friday on the way to a 42-7 Trans-Valley League road win over Riverbank.
“I knew if they kicked it to him, they were going to regret it,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said about Hernandez. “Danny, in my opinion, is the best back in the league, and one of the best backs we’ve had since I’ve been coaching the last 18 years. So if you are going to kick it to him, you are going to get what you get.”
Hernandez ended the game 89 yards on five carries, adding a 4-yard touchdown run.
“I felt like I was going to get chased down for the kickoff return,” Hernandez said. “I was surprised.
“I’ve just been working hard, and it feels good.”
Beset by injuries and limited by youth, Musseman was pleased with his team’s effort.
“It’s great experience for them to play at the varsity level for a game and to get to see that,” Musseman said. “With all of our injuries, it was nice to get our kids off the field tonight and not risk further injury.”
While some of the injured got a reprieve Friday night, things did not end will for junior varsity quarterback call-up Dylan DeGraff. who appeared to break his arm on his first-ever varsity play.
“I feel horrible for our JV quarterback,” Musseman said. “That kid has the biggest heart in the world and this was the most important thing that has ever happened to him, to be able to play in this game.”
Ripon’s starting quarterback Aaron Wood connected on 4 of 5 passes for 50 yards and ran in the Indians last touchdown of the night from 10 yards out.
“Tonight was pretty fun,” Wood said. “I did that a few times last year (his touchdown run) so I just did it. I’m just getting reps and improving every week.”
Brandon Rainer, Daniel Espinoza and Austin Bonilla also made it into the end zone for the Indians on 1-, 2- and 5-yard runs, respectively.
The Bruins (0-2 TVL, 0-6 overall) scored on a 30-yard pass play in the fourth quarter.
Ripon (1-1, 5-1) hosts Livingston next Friday.
Ripon 21 21 0 0 — 42
Riverbank 0 0 0 7 —7
R—Danny Hernandez 95 kickoff return (Nathan Valdez kick), 11:45
R—Brandon Rainer 1 run (Valdez kick), 6:19
R—Daniel Espinoza 2 run (Valdez kick), 2:55
R—Hernandez 4 run (Valdez kick), 11:04
R—Austin Bonilla 5 run (Valdez kick), 8:19
R—Aaron Wood 10 run (Valdez kick), 2:55
Riv—30 yard pass (kick good), 8:08