By JONAMAR JACINTO
Chris Johnson doesn’t need to motivate his players much in summer workouts.
The sting of a 3-7 season is what drives Ripon High’s football team, which had compiled a 30-5 record from 2011-13.
“There’s a chip on their shoulders,” Johnson said at the Manteca team camp held on July 13-15. There is some embarrassment from last year. That’s the worst record we’ve had since I’ve been the head coach.”
The 2014 Indians — laden with juniors — had to grow up fast with a brutal nonleague schedule that included powerhouses Sierra, Patterson, Sonora and Sutter. They were competitive only with Sonora, and in the Trans-Valley League season ended with three straight losses that dashed their postseason hopes.
Not much has changed since then, in terms of how Ripon prepares in the offseason.
“We’re conditioning, doing a little 7-on-7 (passing scrimmages) and basically doing what everybody else does,” Johnson said.
Ripon joined Lathrop and Central Valley at the Manteca camp. Quarterback Nick Price (869 yards, 6 TDs, 5 INTs) looked sharp for the most part in running Ripon’s pistol wing-T offense.
Johnson, though, said it’s tough to gauge his team at this point with the new contact rules implemented this year. A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year limits full-contact practices and team camps such as the one hosted by Manteca.
“It was tough,” Johnson said. “We’re getting the kids excited because we’re about to face Manteca (in 11-on-11 scrimmages). We want them to play hard, but we’re also telling them to not hit anyone.”
Ripon once again did not participate in any passing tournaments, though it organized head-to-head sessions with teams like Central Valley.
“We got away from those a long time ago,” Johnson said. “It’s not for us, it’s not our style. We’re going to run the ball and play-action, so it’s kind of pointless for us to run 7-on-7s with spread teams, and that’s what they’re designed for are spread teams. There is not a lot of value in it for us.”
Ripon will face the same teams before league but at different venues. It will look to avenge last year’s staggering season-opening loss, 54-7, against defending Valley Oak League co-champion Sierra at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium on Aug. 28. Then it’s on to Patterson followed by home games against Lathrop, Sonora and Sutter prior to its bye week.
“These kids have worked hard,” Johnson said. “They’re doing a great job all summer, we have good attendance. We’ll see how it plays out this year.”