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Indians cannot waste TVL opportunity against Escalon
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• WHAT: Ripon vs. Escalon
• WHEN: Friday
• KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m.
• WHERE: Engle Field

Misfortune has played an unfair role in Ripon High’s less-than-stellar start to the season, but the Indians have an ample opportunity in front of them when they make the 13-mile trip to Escalon to take on the Cougars Friday at Engle Field.

Ripon (0-1 Trans Valley League, 2-3 overall) will have to take advantage of the chance of stopping a talented Escalon High squad. The Cougars (1-0, 4-1) are looking for their third consecutive win, and are coming off a 63-0 drubbing of the Riverbank Bruins.

Escalon will lean heavily on the talents of junior quarterback Gino Franceshetti and running back Josh Miguel. Miguel has scored three times in each in Escalon’s first four games, while Franceschetti has touched defenses up for 560 yards passing and eight touchdowns. As important as it is for the Indians’ offense to get going, stopping Escalon’s offense just may be the key.

“On the offensive side of the ball they just execute so well that sooner or later they are going to pop one free,” Ripon head coach Chris Johnson said. “With Miguel and some of the athletes that they have, our best interest is to get our offense going and try to put some points on the board.

“We have to try and keep the ball out of their hands.”

Ripon has shown brief glimpses of its offensive capabilities, but hanging 40-plus on the Ripon Christian Knights is not necessarily going to translate into a scoring outburst against Escalon. The Indians have been most effective when quarterback Alex Gustin and senior running back Ryan Durrer have success in the ground game.

In Ripon’s 41-28 win over Linden (Escalon went into halftime tied with Linden before pulling away for a 49-35 win Sept. 10) Gustin rushed to 212 yards on 14 carries, while Durrer bruised to 105 on 17. For Ripon to have a chance in Escalon, those two will have to find success on the ground.

“We are playing now, with our team and the way things have been going, a one-game season every week,” Johnson said. “That is the way we are approaching every game from here on. We feel like we are a lot better football team than our record shows; we’ve been in every game and we’ve played with everybody, we’ve just been our own worst enemy.

“We’re in a bit of hole because of the Hilmar game, so this is a pretty big one for us.”

The Cougars have been able to outscore their opponents 280-38 in their four victories, and have been able to do it on the ground and through the air. Escalon has found over 6 yards a carry on the ground and more than four times that with each reception. Keeping Escalon off the scoreboard will take a valiant effort from the Indians’ run defense as well as their secondary.

“They are a smash-mouth, hit you in the mouth type football team and I think they always will be as long as coach (Mark) Loureiro and their staff is there,” Johnson said. “They throw the ball well and they have some athletes that can get out there in space. Franceshetti is a tough kid for a junior; he throws a nice ball and carries out a good fake.

“We have been very impressed with what we’ve seen on him in film.”

The two clubs’ contest is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.