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Knights overwhelm Orestimba
Ripon Christian now the heavy favorite in SAL title race
Orestimba-Ripon Christian
Ripon Christian flyback Brady Grondz (10) stiff-arms Orestimba’s Drew Felber. - photo by Wayne Thallander

Ripon Christian will bask in its 42-12 win over Orestimba, for now.

On Monday, it’s back to work. The Knights (2-0, 4-1 overall) are the overwhelming front runners of the Southern Athletic League after their latest conquest, but they’re not taking any opponent lightly at any point of any game for the rest of the regular season.

“It’s always the next,” Ripon Christian flyback/cornerback Brady Grondz said Friday following the one-sided victory over the visiting Warriors from Newman. “We’re not thinking that we got this win already, that’s what happened to us in the Hughson game.”

The third-year senior referenced the Knights’ heartbreaking 31-28 loss in the NorCal Division 5-AA Bowl Game. 

“At halftime, we thought we were coming out with the ‘W,’” he added. “We didn’t do that this game. We went to the locker room at 0-0. That’s what we’re going to next week and the week after and the week after until we hit this field on senior night.”

Ripon Christian’s shutout streak may have come to an end, but the string of dominant efforts did not. Sparked by a pair of big fourth-down plays, the Knights rolled to a 21-0 halftime lead.

Grondz scored two of his three touchdowns in the first half, finishing with 101 yards on 18 carries. He also recovered a fumble forced by Preston Zuidevaart in the second quarter.

Grant Sonke (10 rushes, 63 yards, TD; 56-yard reception) and Trevor Van Elderen (11 rushes, 48 yards, TD) also keyed a rushing attacking that totaled 235 yards against just 98 for Orestimba. Warriors running back Juan Esquivez came into the game averaging 163.8 yards per game but was held to 79 on 16 carries on Friday. He had just 25 yards after three quarters.

“We feel like we’ve been refined in the fire,” RC coach Phil Grams said. “We went down to CVC (Central Valley Christian in Week Zero), which is a much-higher (caliber) program than us, and we were physical and hung with those guys all night.

“The next three weeks, we just executed. I told the guys tonight that if we just execute and take care of what we can take care of, then we’re going to be able to grind the ball and beat them, too. The guys believed and bought in.”

That belief helped the Knights extend drives that propelled them to the three-score lead by halftime.

On their first drive, Sonke faked a punt on fourth-and-5 and ran it for 23 yards. Grondz capped the series with an 8-yard run.

In the second quarter, sophomore quarterback Mason Tameling (6 of 10, 130 yards, TD) hit 6-foot-9 tight end Jace Beidleman for a 25-yard gain on fourth-and-8. Van Elderen then scored on a 10-yard scamper for the 21-0 lead. Tameling and Beidleman hooked up again early in the fourth quarter for a 13-yard touchdown on a perfect toss to the back of the end zone.

Grams revealed that fake punt was not called by the coaches.

“(Sonke) can punt the ball a mile, so you have to respect that, but we’re going to give him the freedom to run,” Grams said.  Sonke did hammer a 52-yard punt near the end of the half.

“That’s his call,” Grams continued. “If he sees it open, that’s his call. Grant is incredible. He’s a three-year starter for us.”

The defense held Orestimba to just 53 yards in the first half. Junior quarterback Jacob Valenzuela (8 of 17, 113 yards; 10 rushes, 19 yards) eventually got going and did well to extend drives with his legs. He ended Ripon Christian’s shutout streak — the Knight’s did not give up a point for 14 straight quarters — when he delivered a strike to wide-open tight end Devon Bell up the middle for a 37-yard touchdown with 4:01 left in the third quarter.

Valenzuela had a good bounce for his second touchdown completion, as Ripon Christian defensive back Luke Crivello tipped the pass up in the end zone for Orestimba’s Dylan McCauley to reel in for a 4-yard score.

Valenzuela is playing in place of incumbent starter Alex Millan, who is out with a shoulder injury.

“Their quarterback is out, but let’s not forget we’re still short Dustin Hoekstra who was an all-league (linebacker) last year,” Grams said. “And (Valenzuela) is a heck of an athlete and a very good player. Watching him play last year as a sophomore, we knew we were going to have our hands full with him.” 

Ripon Christian will look to keep it rolling next week when Waterford (1-1, 2-3) visits. Grams suspects his team will see Orestimba again before both teams are moved to the loaded Trans-Valley League next year.

“(Aaron) Souza is a great football coach,” Grams said. “It’s always a battle with them and they’re a great program. I think we’re going to see them in the playoffs.”


Orestimba 0 0 6 6 — 12

Ripon Ch. 7 14 7 14 — 42


First quarter

R — Brady Grondz 8 run (Ethan Schenk kick), 5:28.


Second quarter

R — Grondz 10 run (Schenk kick), 11:04.

R — Trevor Van Elderen 10 run (Schenk kick), 6:26.


Third quarter

R — Grant Sonke 2 run (Schenk kick), 8:51.

O — Devon Bell 37 pass from Jacob Valenzuela (pass failed), 4:01.


Fourth quarter

R — Jace Beidleman 13 pass from Mason Tameling (Schenk kick), 10:13.

O — Dylan McCauley 4 pass from Valenzuela (pass failed), 6:38.

R — Grondz 15 run (Schenk kick), 1:27.