TRACY — The 2013 Ripon High Indians have a tough act to follow.
After leading them to their best season under his guidance, ninth-year head coach Chris Johnson had his squad hard at work all summer starting with weekday workouts at 7:30 in the morning and ending with last week’s full-contact camp at West.
“It’s like I told the kids you don’t hang banners in June, but that’s where you lay the foundation,” Johnson said.
His players now know what it takes to reach the success that the 2012 team enjoyed. Third-year varsity players Kody Day and Michael Morris along with Bradley Clark, Michael Ysit and Josh Clark — who were surprise breakout performers last season as juniors — helped lead Ripon to an impressive 11-1 record. Ripon went 10-0 in the regular season for the first time since 1983, and with its first league title in 16 years.
“It all started the year before,” Johnson said, referring to the 2011 team that went 8-3 and was instrumental in changing the culture of the program. “We had some great senior leaders then who really set the bar for the rest of the team. We’ve been pretty fortunate the last couple of years. The guys have lots of confidence and now there are some high expectations. They know the deal.”
Ripon broke in a new quarterback, promising sophomore Nick Price, this summer. The younger brother of former Ripon baseball/football standout Danny Price, Nick replaces 2012 Trans-Valley League Offensive Player of the Year Kyle Wengel.
Price was behind center for the Patterson passing tournament and the West Camp, where he and the rest of the Indians were tested by the likes of nearby rival Manteca. Also in attendance were Dougherty Valley of San Ramon, Liberty Ranch of Galt, Pacheco of Los Banos and Kimball of Tracy.
“The big thing we’re looking for out of this camp is our best five (linemen) up front,” Jounson said. “We’re pretty well set with our skill guys, and we’re senior heavy there. But there was a little uncertainty with what we have up front going into the camp, so we want to find our best five and live and die by those guys.”
Ripon had its struggles against Manteca’s behemoth front in an 11-on-11 scrimmage but otherwise fared well throughout the three-day camp.
“We gotta get better,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of the little things. We’re playing too high, we’re not keeping our feet moving, getting tired — that kind of stuff. I think some of our basic stuff is good. You always want to come out of the camp with a good idea of what kind of team you have.
“So far, so good. After this week we’ll get a little break and then next month we’ll knock off the rust and get ready for the season.”
The Sac-Joaquin Section-imposed Dead Period for fall sports began Monday and ends with the first official day of practice on Aug. 12. Teams are required to have two days of pre-conditioning before holding full-contact practices.
The regular season opens for Ripon on Aug. 30 against nonleague foe Bret Harte.