SALIDA — The Ripon Christian Knights advanced in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoffs with a 50-20 opening win over visiting Stone Ridge Christian at Modesto Christian on Friday.
They’ll next face No. 2 seed Woodland Christian, which enjoyed a first-round bye.
No. 3-seeded RC (9-2) got another big game from record-setting running back Andrew Brown. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior added to his section mark with four touchdowns while picking up 186 rushing yards on 24 carries. He also threw for a touchdown and added two more points on an extra-point toss.
Knights coach Randy Fasani indicated defense was the key, in particular, containing Stone Ridge’s “cox box” formation.
“We saw a lot of it on film,” he said. “It’s rather simplistic – one formation, but they run a variety of plays off it.”
No. 6 seed Stone Ridge Christian (5-6) of Merced rode some early momentum off that formation, with Estevon Herrera spinning and bouncing off of tacklers.
“They used a lot of misdirection plays,” said RC linebacker Dave Henderson, who noted that it took some time for his team to adjust to those schemes. Stone Ridge, in fact, scored twice on its first two possessions, needing eight plays to do so.
Brown got the Knights going early on, scoring on a 4-yard-run that was set up by acrobatic tumbling catch by Ethan McMurray, snagging quarterback Billy Marr’s pass inside the 5. Brown then connected with McMurray on the two-point conversion pass.
Stone Ridge answered back, surprising RC by going to the air. Quarterback Mark Hooker hit Jeremiah Strango on the 12-yard scoring toss.
Back came the Knights, who opened with the ball at midfield, as a personal-foul penalty to McMurray on his 21-yard reception tacked on another 15 yards. Brown capped off the drive with a 6-yard TD run.
Stone Ridge kept it close, scoring on Herrera’s 13-yard run shortly before the start of the second quarter.
The RC defense finally got a stop. Momentum began to favor the Knights after Brown scored on a 5-yard run and Jonah Lewis reeled in a 45-yard TD bomb from Marr.
Down 29-13, Stone Ridge had a tough time coming back from its run-oriented formation.
“If you get ahead of (Stone Ridge), you can force them to throw,” Fasani said.
Stone Ridge, however, kept the ball on the ground and was stopped several times deep in RC territory in the second half.
Up 36-13 early in the fourth, the Knights marched up the field as Casey Kamper and Brown broke loose for some big yards. Brown drew so much attention from the Stone Ridge defense that he managed to pull pack while delivering a 34-yard scoring strike to Spencer Hower on the option play.
Herrera, who added his second TD late in the game, finished with a game-high 250 yards on 28 carries.