The “any given Friday” mantra is used and abused by prep football coaches on pretty much every given Friday night.
No one can blame Trans-Valley League coaches for continuing this tradition after two topsy-turvy weeks of conference action. And perhaps no one is dropping every like cliché in the book this week as Chris Johnson, whose Ripon High squad carries a 20-game regular-season winning streak into Hughson this Friday for a rematch of their wild 2012 showdown.
The Indians (2-0 TVL, 6-0 overall) are on the third leg of a brutal four-game start to league, first drubbing traditional power Escalon 35-3 and sprinting away from Modesto Christian, 35-13. And for a second straight week, they have to face a contending team starving for vengeance after staggering loss.
Last week, Ripon had to tangle with a Modesto Christian team coming off a 30-0 setback to still-undefeated Hilmar. Hughson (0-1, 4-1), tabbed by many as the 2013 TVL champ, was walloped at Escalon’s homecoming, 31-11.
The Huskies nearly ruined Ripon’s homecoming night a year ago in a 35-27 loss. Quarterback Kyle Kerlee (185 rushing yards, 2 TDs) and star RB Tanner Duron (112 yards) engineered the comeback after Hughson trailed 21-0 in the second quarter. It wasn’t until LB Lucas Bunting’s late interception that the Indians were able to exhale.
Both Duron and Kerlee are back along with a physical line. Duron (647 yards, 8 TDs) is averaging more than 10 yards per carry, and Kerlee (404 yards, 4 TDs) remains productive even though he is no longer under center. Andrew Ocegueda (365 yards, 4 TDs) runs for 14 yards per attempt, giving Hughson another home run threat out of the backfield.
New signal caller Devondre Stendardo (425 yards passing, 3 TDs; 3 rushing TDs) and leading tackler Tyler Johnson-Clark led Hughson’s sophomore team to a 9-1 season in 2012.
Hughson has the daunting task of slowing Ripon’s efficient running game (317 yards per game) that is supplemented by the growing confidence of sophomore QB Nick Price (735 yards, 8 TDs).
Elsewhere in Week 6:
— Sonora (0-2, 0-5 overall) will pay its final visit to Manteca as a Valley Oak League member Friday night. Awaiting the Wildcats is East Union (0-2, 1-4).
While injuries have hampered East Union through the first half of its schedule, turnovers have doomed Sonora. In last week’s 45-26 loss to Sierra, the Wildcats coughed up six turnovers (four interceptions).
Both teams will try and impose their will with their running games. Despite its struggles, Sonora has still been able to plow through defenses with its triple-option offense led by RBs K.C. Brandsted and Kade Barjas and speedy wing Ryan Puou. Victor Lopez (449 yards, 3 TDs) is the workhorse in EU’s wing offense.
— Fresh off its first-ever win at Sonora’s Dunlavy Field, Sierra (2-0 VOL, 4-1 overall) returns home with its high-octane spread offense to face winless Lathrop.
With the area’s most prolific QB, Jake Pruitt (1,555 yards, 17 TDs, 2 INTs), leading the charge, Sierra is averaging 45 points per game. That doesn’t bode well for Lathrop, which gave up five first-half touchdowns through the air in last week’s 56-7 loss to Manteca, a team known more for its punishing ground attack.
The Spartans, however, have proven capable of sustaining drives all season, which would serve them well to keep Pruitt and Co. off the field. Running backs Kevin Rainey and Hawaii Leaf a Teo had been carrying the load this season, but last week QB Kenny Garrett enjoyed his most productive game (21-36, 325 yards, TD).
— Weston Ranch (1-1 VOL, 2-3 overall) could be without two of its top offensive weapons in a must-win game at Kimball (1-1, 2-3).
Wide receiver Chris Cannady was in street clothes in last week’s crushing 62-12 loss to defending VOL champion Oakdale, and RB John McDonald hobbled off the field with an injury in the second half.
Meanwhile, Kimball dominated East Union in a 42-21 win. The Jaguars’ wing-T offense broke out in a big way after scoring no more than 19 points in a game. Weston Ranch’s defense must slow down Gaige Allen (569 yards, 7 TDs), who runs for almost 10 yards per carry.
— Former Ripon Christian assistant coach Robert Kissee returns to Stouffer Field on Friday night as the new head man for Turlock Christian (0-2 Southern League, 0-5 overall). Unless they hook up for nonleague contests in the future, this could mark the end of the friendly rivalry between the SL’s two parochial schools. The Eagles are heading to the Central California Athletic Alliance next year.
Big-play machine Andrew Brown (1,236 offensive yards, 19 total TDs) and Ripon Christian (2-0, 4-1) are on a roll with winnable games ahead. The Knights are tuning up for their Week 8 battle with Waterford (2-0, 3-2) and Week-10 encounter with undefeated Le Grand.