Ripon Christian has reached the pinnacle of success for its 10th-year varsity football program under first-year head coach Randy Fasani.
Well, not quite yet.
On Saturday, the Knights (10-2) have a chance to make even more history by bringing home the school’s first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI title at the Grape Bowl in Lodi at 1 p.m.
Third-seeded Ripon Christian is set to face the tournament’s No. 1 seed Bradshaw Christian (9-2) of Sacramento, a team that defeated the Knights two years ago on its way to winning the section title.
“This was originally our goal: to win the Southern League championship and a section championship,” said Fasani, who grew up in the Sacramento-area and starred at Del Oro where he was the top quarterback nationwide. “I’m proud of what these kids accomplished whether we win or lose.”
Bradshaw Christian runs a Wing-T offense that is also capable of spreading it out as it averages 530 yards per game this year.
The Pride feature standout quarterback Kevin Williams (1,688 yards, 25 TDs, 6 INTs), who has tossed 17 touchdowns to wide receiver Kyle Betts (946 yards).
Bradshaw Christian also has a stout running game that features Jakobe Hawkins (1,228 yards, 12 TDs) and Grant Dragmire (926 yards, 7 TDs).
“It’s a unique power offense,” Ripon Christian’s first-year defensive coordinator Eddie Erdelatz said. “In their game against Brookside Christian (last week), they ran the ball down their throat. They have an All-League receiver and they have a quarterback who’s extremely athletic, accurate and mobile.
“They’re very similar statistically to (us), but their game is a little more power in the trenches. They have some big boys that just want to manhandle you.”
Although Ripon Christian didn’t win the Southern League title after falling against Le Grand (11-0) on Nov. 8 at Stouffer Field 47-14, the Knights now have a crack at winning a championship ring following two playoff victories by a score of 96-20 -- including a shutout over No. 2 Woodland Christian on Friday.
The Knights’ defense is playing lights out with solid play on the line from senior Eric Broker, junior Jake Schollenberg and sophomores Will Kamps and Tyler Driesen.
“To be in this game means a lot to us,” said the 6-2, 215-pound Broker. “We’re the first team in school history to ever get to this game. We’re extremely focused right now.
“We’re very prepared and we’re working hard. This was our ultimate goal, and we’re here. So it’s finally time to put it all together and go showcase it on Saturday.”
Even if the defense can’t slow up a talented Bradshaw Christian offense, the Knights have to like their offense’s chances in a fistfight.
Senior standout Andrew Brown has amassed 2,626 yards with 45 touchdowns for a Ripon Christian offense averaging 48.25 point per game.
“Obviously we’re happy to be here,” said Brown, who also leads the team with 611 receiving yards and six touchdowns (51 total). “But not in the way that we’ll take a loss. We’re hungry. We don’t want to just go in there and show up. We want to play, and we want to win.
“I think the amount of preparation we’ve put in this week and the fact that we’re coming back for revenge -- we have a really good shot at this point.
“Our offense is very good. We have a lot of weapons, and last week we showed that (against Woodland Christian). I’m confident my offense can get the job done.”
Junior quarterback Billy Marr (1,670 yards, 17TDs, 5 INTs) will be depended on to play efficient again and limit mistakes. So far through two postseason games, Marr is 16 for 26 with 246 yards and one TD.