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Knights put in on the line
Outsized in the trenches, RC’s two-way linemen key Section championship win
Woodland Christian-Ripon Christian football
Ripon Christian defensive linemen Jimmy Heida (52) and Cote Winowrski (77) chase down Woodland Christian quarterback Caden Pascoe (6) in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII final last Friday at St. Mary’s High. GARY JENSEN/

Size does not always matter.

The Ripon Christian line, clearly outsized by Woodland Christian, wore the Cardinals down in the second half Friday to put up 14 unanswered points on the way to a 28-16 come-from-behind win for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII championship, the first blue banner for the Knights football team.

The Woodland Christian interior line averages 300 pounds while four Ripon Christian linemen that go both ways average just 230. After a 44-yard output in the first half, the Knights gained 175 in the second half. The Cardinals gained 193 yards in the first half but just 97 in the second. All told, Ripon Christian outgained Woodland Christian 389-290.

“We just kept telling our guys, ‘Stay on your blocks, stay on your blocks. We’re going to get them in the second half,’” Knights coach Phil Grams said. “And with (offensive coordinator Randy Fasani’s) great play calling, we were able to mix it up on them and get the run game going. Our team played really well against a team that was much bigger than them.”

The smallest of the Ripon Christian two-way interior quartet is inside linebacker/offensive guard Dustin Hoekstra at 6-foot-2, 201 pounds. Hoekstra made nine tackles.

“The first half was tough,” Hoekstra said. “The offense made a few mistakes and the defense gave up some big plays.

“But in the second half we came out, wiped out the mistakes and executed like we were supposed to.

At 6-3, 267, defensive tackle/nose guard Carson Bunnell made four stops.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Bunnell said. “There was a lot of dirty talk and late hits and everything but we fought through and I knew the whole time that we had it in us to do what we needed to do.”

Cote Windorski, the 5-11, 230 nose guard/offensive guard, made three tackles.

“It was a rough game,” Windorski said. “We all fought hard.

“Once the struggle starts to happen I just told myself to fight through it.”

There were two Cardinals ejections near the end of the game, and 6-2, 220-pound defensive and offensive tackle Jacob Kowes knew the importance of maintaining composure. Kowes made three tackles.

“There was a lot of emotions on both sides,” Kowes said. “We found a way to power through our emotions and to get ourselves composed so we could attack with all our offensive weapons and it worked.”

Kowes has been the unquestioned leader for a group that had been a question mark for the team going into the season. With established standouts returning at the skill positions, how soon could the unproven linemen, who lacked the size, depth and accolades of their predecessors, catch up to the surrounding talent?

They’ve stepped up to the challenge and are champions because of it.  

The reward for the Knights for winning the SJS Division VII championship is to face the SJS Division VI champion Hughson Friday night at 7:30 at Hughson in the NorCal Division V-AA Regional Championship. Not only is Ripon Christian a much smaller school at 205 students to 768 for the Huskies, Hughson plays in a higher division than then Knights, but the CIF State office uses what it thinks is competitive equity for the regional matchups.

The Knights have been outsized before, and maybe they can overcome a huge disadvantage one more time.