NEWMAN — Anthony Baciocco and Cole Herrin returned to Warrior Stadium Friday, the backdrop of a heartbreaking night two years ago.
But on this night, they and the rest of the Ripon High Indians celebrated.
While far from a perfect performance, the 48-24 victory over Orestimba was plenty good enough for Ripon to clinch the Trans-Valley League title outright and complete the team’s first perfect regular-season run in 29 years.
It was in 2010 that Baciocco and Herrin, sophomores at the time, were part of a gut-wrenching 40-21 loss to Orestimba in a Week-10 showdown that had Sac-Joaquin Section playoff implications for both teams. Before that varsity contest kicked off, Baciocco and Herrin’s classmates celebrated a share of the TVL’s sophomore-level championship.
“Me and Cole finally got one,” Baciocco said. “We had it in our minds the whole season — we wanted to run the table. No one believed us, they picked us to come in second and we proved them wrong.
“I’m going to cherish this for a long time,” he added. “This is an awesome team, so let’s keep this going in the playoffs.”
Baciocco keyed Ripon’s 27-point fourth-quarter flurry that put a game Orestimba squad (1-4 TVL, 5-4 overall) away for good. His 7-yard touchdown scamper made it 35-24 with 6:52 remaining, and just 15 seconds later he returned a pick-six 40 yards to fully shift the momentum in the Indians’ favor.
“It was such an adrenaline rush,” Baciocco said. “I couldn’t believe how fast it turned around, but this is such a (resilient) team that has done it all year long.”
Defensive standout Tyler Swortfiguer punctuated Ripon’s dominant quarter with an interception and a 14-yard touchdown run on the next play.
Orestimba, at one point, appeared prime for an upset. Down 14-0 early on, the Warriors limited Ripon’s offense to a single first down and forced two turnovers in the second quarter and scored 18 unanswered points to take their first lead in the third. Their star running back, Steven Machado, broke a 65-yard run to the end zone late in the quarter to give Orestimba its final lead, 24-21.
“We talked about having to weather the storm,” Ripon head coach Chris Johnson said. “They were going to come out and punch us in the mouth, so how were we going to react? Our kids just fought through it. It’s a good team win, you can’t point to one star that’s carried this group.”
“We talked about having to weather the storm. They were going to come out and punch us in the mouth, so how were we going to react? Our kids just fought through it. It’s a good team win, you can’t point to one star that’s carried this group.”
Machado finished with 229 yards and two TDs on 30 carries. The 5-foot-7, 175-pound junior started the game as the state’s eighth leading rusher with 1,612 yards, according to MaxPreps.com.
“That running back is good. He’s a top-10 back in the state for a reason,” said Ripon fullback Josh McCreath, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season with his 109-yard, one-touchdown effort.
Fellow senior Kyle Wengel kept Orestimba’s defense honest with his efficient throwing, completing eight of 14 passes for 112 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. His first TD toss was a 9-yarder to Herrin, which gave Ripon its 14-0 first-quarter lead. He later hooked up with junior Bradley Clark for 18- and 11-yard strikes.
Even sophomore call-up Mauricio Aguirre was in on the historic exclamation point of Ripon’s magical regular-season ride, nailing six of seven point-after kicks.
Orestimba QB Tanner Pruitt was 6-of-11 passing with 130 yards and two TDs. Alex Banks led Orestimba receivers with five receptions, 102 yards and a touchdown.
Orestimba wraps up the regular season at Modesto Christian with a playoff berth on the line. Ripon, meanwhile, will enjoy its bye week before preparing for its postseason opener.
“Maybe a little bit, but not too much,” Johnson joked. “We will take a little time off and back off a little bit, but at the same time we have to get back to the basics and fix the things we have to fix.”
Of course there are things to fix.
Nobody’s perfect, after all.