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Landmark wins at stake for Ripon schools
Ripon High can clinch share of TVL title against Riverbank
Ripon Christian linemen Clayton Blankers (66) and Jake Schollenberg signal for the safety late in the Knights Southern League game against Delhi on Saturday. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Kimball (2-5) at East Union (1-6): After giving up an average of 45.5 points against the VOL’s elite four, but the Jaguars are making a run at their first postseason appearance (44-25, Kimball).

Manteca (4-3) at Lathrop (0-7): Lathrop has improved steadily on defense, but it needs help from an offense that has yet to score more than 7 points in a game (31-6, Manteca).

Sonora (3-4) at Sierra (6-1): A tough three-week stretch ends for Sierra, which faces a desperate Sonora squad that needs a win to improve its postseason chances (35-27, Sierra).

Weston Ranch (4-3) at Oakdale (6-1): Oakdale is adding wrinkles to its Wing-T/spread offense while crushing VOL opponents by 40-plus point margins (45-3, Oakdale).

Riverbank (2-5) at Ripon (8-0): The Indians are a win away from clinching the TVL title. Riverbank is coming off a 63-0 loss to Modesto Christian, which Ripon blasted, 52-0 (55-7, Ripon).

Ripon Christian (6-1) at Waterford (5-2):  RC survived a scare in Saturday’s win over Delhi. Call it a much-needed wake-up call for this week’s battle for an automatic playoff berth (27-25, Waterford).

Last week: 6-0 (39-3 overall)

Ripon Christian can reach unprecedented heights this Friday.

Neighboring Ripon High looks to snap a 16-year drought on the same night.

It’s a big week for all area squads that are in contention for league championships and playoff berths. For the undefeated Indians of Ripon (4-0, 8-0 overall), a win over last-place Riverbank clinches at least a share of the Trans-Valley League crown. Their last title was earned in 1996, when they seized the Southern League title and the school’s only Sac-Joaquin Section postseason banner.

Chances of Ripon clinching are good. Riverbank (0-3, 2-5) lost to Orestimba and Hilmar by 30-point margins before absorbing a 63-0 shellacking from Modesto Christian last week. Ripon is coming off an impressive 42-7 win over Hilmar, which figures to be its last major challenger in its bid for a perfect regular season. The Indians have also beaten MC resoundingly, 52-0.

Ripon ends the regular season in Week 9 at Orestimba (1-3, 5-3), where it faces one of the state’s top rushers in junior Steven Machado (1,612 yards, 21 TDs). The Indians will get their bye on Week 10, giving them an extra week to prepare for the SJS Division IV playoffs.

Ripon Christian (4-0, 6-1) will be presented its two toughest tests in the Southern League over the final three weeks starting with Friday’s game at Waterford (3-1, 5-2). Beating the Wildcats would put RC in the driver’s seat for an automatic berth — which goes to league champions and runners-up — to the SJS playoffs (likely in Division VI). It would also mark the first time in school history that the Knights finish the regular season with at least seven wins.

Waterford, which could have its best team since the program’s inception, lost to three-time defending SL champion Le Grand 40-20 two weeks ago before bouncing back with a 22-0 shutout of traditional power Mariposa. Ripon Christian needed a second-half surge to avoid an upset in Saturday’s 37-21 triumph over Delhi, which was throttled 61-20 by Waterford in the league opener.

The Wildcats have one of the league’s top players in 5-foot-10, 200-pound RB Dylan Gonzalez (871 yards, 14 TDs).

Ripon Christian hosts Gustine for its final regular-season home game in Week 9 before heading to Le Grand.

Kimball at East Union

East Union (1-3, 1-6) has struggled to put together scoring drives all season. Kimball (1-3, 2-5) may be the perfect foil to get the offense untracked, but in the Jaguars’ defense they had to go up against the Valley Oak League’s four best teams in succession while giving up an average of 45.5 points.

The Lancers definitely will have their hands full with Kimball QB Zach Johnson, who threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 151 yards and a score in last week’s 58-45 loss to Sierra.

Sonora at Sierra

The Wildcats (2-2, 3-4) are reeling from a disappointing 27-20 homecoming loss to Manteca, which battled back from a 14-0 halftime deficit and took the final lead with 27 seconds remaining.

Sierra (3-1, 6-1) opened the season with a 32-26 victory against Tracy, which prepares them well for Sonora with both teams running a triple-option offense anchored by power-running fullbacks.

With Manteca Unified rivals Lathrop and Weston Ranch also left on the schedule, Sierra can secure an automatic berth to the postseason by winning out and finishing no worse than second in the VOL.

Manteca at Lathrop

Manteca (3-1, 4-3) is riding the momentum of its stellar second-half effort in Sonora and can use more of a boost going into its Week 9 matchup with first-place Oakdale. The Buffaloes would likely earn an at-large playoff berth by winning two of their final three, so they can’t take Friday’s game lightly.

Lathrop is still in search of its first win of the season.

Weston Ranch at Oakdale

Weston Ranch needed 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to get past Lathrop on homecoming last week, 15-6. The Cougars (2-2, 4-3) are still in the postseason hunt, but they must pull off upsets down the stretch to get there. They finish out their season with home games against Kimball and Sierra.

Oakdale (4-0, 6-1) is beating VOL opponents by 40-plus points so far, and that’s with second-string players getting a lot of work.