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Knights rout Denair to snap losing streak
Back-up QB shines; Brown scores 5 touchdowns
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Ripon Christian running back Andrew Brown finds a hole that leads to the end zone. The touchdown was one of five that the sophomore scored against Denair Saturday. - photo by HIME ROMERO

RIPON — Fake point-after kicks, wildcat formations, pre-snap shifts and halfback tosses.

Ripon Christian found creative ways to snap out of a four-game funk Saturday at Stouffer Field.

With standout quarterback Danny Vos watching from the sidelines, the Knights pummeled winless Denair 58-13 to keep their dimming postseason hopes alive.

Ripon Christian (1-2 Southern League, 2-4 overall) piled up 551 total yards of offense — 438 on the ground — to just 144 for the Coyotes.

Leading the charge on both sides of scrimmage was James Vander Schaaf, who has done most of his work as a middle linebacker this season. Last year, he was the team’s starting QB but was thrusted back into the role after Vos suffered whiplash in last week’s 27-7 loss at Mariposa.

While not exactly thrilled to be the guy taking the snaps, he performed like a veteran. Vander Schaaf completed four of six passes for 113 yards and a touchdown while not throwing an interception. He added eight rushes for 65 yards and two more scores, and on defense he recorded 1 ½ sacks.

Vander Schaaf also had a hand in five 2-point conversions, two of them on pass plays.

 “It’s not my favorite (position) but it was really fun,” Vander Schaaf said. “We changed the offense a little bit for me, and it worked out pretty good.”

Sophomore running back Andrew Brown wasn’t so shabby either. He was in on five touchdowns (four rushing), running his season total to 17 scores from scrimmage.

Brown ended up with 263 yards on 22 rushes and could have eclipsed 300-yard mark for the first time had it not been for two mistakes. On one play late in the third quarter, Brown lined up behind center in the wildcat but had to recover a high snap that led to a 21-yard loss and turned a second-and-1 situation to third-and-24 on Denair’s 33. The Knights would score on the drive anyway, with Vander Schaaf hitting Brown for a 33-yard score to make it 50-13.

And in the fourth, Brown had a 22-yard touchdown run wiped away by a holding penalty.

But Brown and the Knights had the game well in hand before that point in the contest. Brown produced two dazzling touchdown runs of 69 and 60 yards, the first in which he leapt over a downed Coyote 10 yards downfield before racing toward the end zone uncontested.

“The line did an incredible job,” Brown said. “I think there were like four runs where I wasn’t even touched. That wasn’t me at all, that was all line blocking and me being able to outrun the rest of the defense.”

Junior running back Zach Davis (11 rushes, 98 yards), who has missed most of the season with a hamstring injury, was also involved in some explosive plays in his return to action. He gives the Knights a between-the-tackles threat, a quality displayed on his impressive 22-yard run in which he bulled his way through traffic near the line of scrimmage and broke several tackles to reach open field.

Ripon Christian was so dominant that the Knights were able to overcome 11 penalties that cost 109 yards as well as three lost fumbles.

Jim Atkinson scored on a 34-yard pass from James Behrens as time expired in the first quarter, closing the Coyotes in 8-6. And on a double-pass play, Atkinson hit Brad Tobin from 35 yards out on fourth-and-9 to give Denair a glimmer of hope while down 22-13 late in the second quarter.

But the Knights’ defense tightened up the rest of the way, holding Behrens to just 57 yards on 5-of-19 passing. Behrens was also sacked five times and threw an interception to Brown.

Clayton Blankers, Thomas Van Vliet and Kyle Bodenschatz each had a sack, and sophomore lineman Eric Broker combined with Vander Schaaf for another. Mason Veilleux and Connor Adams each recovered a fumble.

Back to the offensive side, the 58 points were the most scored under fifth-year head coach Jon Vander Schaaf. The school record of 88 — recorded in a shutout of Big Valley Christian — came on November, 12, 2004.

Saturday’s win provided a needed injection of confidence for the Knights, who likely need to win the rest of their games to qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V/VI playoffs.

Adding to the festive mood throughout the contest was the rotation of kickers used, sometimes drawing giggles from the sidelines. Vos is the team’s primary placekicker, and Davis — the kicker last year — is still somewhat hampered by the pulled hamstring.

Enter senior lineman Anton den Dulk handled the job for most of the game.

“We were basically drawing straws on the sideline, and Anton being a senior leader said he’ll do it for the rest of the game,” coach Vander Schaaf said.