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Indians denied playoff berth
Pious in on four big TD plays for Orestimba
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NEWMAN — Almost everything went right for Ripon High in the first half Friday against Orestimba in a game that both teams needed for a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff berth.

Then in the second half, everything went wrong for the Indians, who were staggered by big plays throughout in a 40-21 loss at Warrior Stadium.

And it was Orestimba’s big-play machine, Ravonne Pious, who was in the middle of the game’s momentum-changing sequences.

The electric quarterback jolted 77 yards for the game’s first touchdown in the first quarter, which made up most of his 90 total rushing yards on 10 carries.

He also threw 64- and 20-yard touchdown strikes to Raymond Musquez and Tomas Delacruz in the second half, both backbreakers for Ripon (3-3 Trans Valley League, 5-5 overall).

But the tone-setter of Orestimba’s 20-point third-quarter outburst — which came after the Warriors (4-2, 6-4) led just 7-6 at halftime — was Pious’ 34-yard interception return for a score with 8:34 remaining.

Disaster ensued for Ripon on the next drive, which stalled after three plays.

A high snap soared over punter Cole Herrin, and he recovered it inside the Indians’ 5-yard-line before rushing a short kick.

That was when one of the shortest punt returns for a touchdown you’ll ever see developed, as Mykah Enos took it at the 11 and strolled into the end zone uncontested.

 “They made big plays and we didn’t — that’s the difference of the game,” said Ripon coach Chris Johnson. “They have some explosive kids. Hats off to them, they deserved that win.”
Ripon felt it deserved to have the lead at halftime.

The Indians, spearheaded by 6-foot-3, 210-pound battering ram Mariano Villalobos (23 rushes, 98 yards), were unstoppable between the 30-yard lines over the game’s first 24 minutes.

Ripon dominated possession, running 53 plays from scrimmage to Orestimba’s 29. Ripon had more first downs (10-6) and won the turnover battle (3-1).

And yet Ripon trailed by a point.

Quarterback Jake McCreath (9-of-24, 109 yards, 2 INTs; 10 rushes, 53 yards) connected with Ryan Durrer on a fade pattern with 1:13 left in the half, but the conversion kick missed.

“We couldn’t score (in the first half). At the end of the day, we couldn’t score,” Johnson said. “They came out in the third quarter, made some big plays and that was the end of the game right there.”

Part of the reason for Ripon’s “struggles” (tough to call it a struggle when Ripon piled up 305 yards) on offense was that it couldn’t get its big playmaker, Alex Gustin, on track.

The tailback had to do his damage in the passing game (4 receptions, 69 yards) but was held to 3 yards on nine rushes. His 4-yard touchdown run that capped the final score in the fourth quarter got him out of the red.

“There’s a lot of speed on that (defense),” Johnson said. “They just said, ‘Hey, Alex Gustin isn’t going to do anything tonight and we’re not going to let him beat us.’

“We were able to do some things up the middle. We were able to move the ball; we just couldn’t finish. That’s been an Achilles’ heel for us all year.”

As heartbreaking as the loss is, Johnson was able to find positives.

For one, Ripon did well to make its final regular-season game mean something after a 2-4 start to the season.

Secondly, its young defense was exposed to a very good offense Friday. Junior defensive lineman Justin Davis was everywhere, and Herrin, only a sophomore, picked off a pass at cornerback and did an admirable job of keeping Pious’ standout twin brother Ramone (3 receptions, 37 yards) from getting loose.

“This is a tough loss, but I think it’s a good lesson for our young guys,” Johnson said. “We have two sophomores and seven juniors on our defense. We’re a real young team and it’s good for them to be in games like this.”