Mountain House wants Ripon, and the Mustangs will get their shot at the reigning Trans-Valley League co-champion.
Making their Sac-Joaquin Section postseason debut, they trampled past 10th-seeded Union Mine of El Dorado 53-30 in a Division V opener last week.
No. 7 Mountain House (10-1), a Western Athletic Conference tri-champion, visits second-seeded Ripon’s Stouffer Field in the quarterfinal round Friday. It’s a much-anticipated reunion, for the Mustangs, at least. They were in the TVL for their first three varsity seasons and are 0-3 against the Indians. In their last meeting, Ripon had several starters sit out the opening half for disciplinary reasons and trailed 21-7 at halftime before rolling to a 33-21 victory.
“We had those guys last year at halftime and they came back and got us,” Mountain House coach Jason McCloskey told the Tracy Press following the Mustangs’ historic win. “Our kids have always wanted to play them again, even when we got out of the TVL they were like, ‘Get Ripon. Put ‘em on our schedule.’ I’m expecting a hard-fought game.”
Duly noted, said Ripon head coach Chris Musseman, a Tracy resident who was in attendance for the Mustangs’ first-round contest.
He’s also expecting a dogfight.
“They’re a much-improved team,” he said. “They execute better and they have some talented athletes — there’s a reason why they’re 10-1 and co-champs of their league. They’re playing very good football right now.”
Musseman is hoping his team is up for it.
The Indians (9-1) are one of four teams in the bracket to receive first-round byes, but the last time they had a break from game action they laid an egg the following week against traditional rival Escalon in an embarrassing 38-7 setback.
Ripon has made up for it since, winning back-to-back to end the regular season including a thrilling 25-22 comeback victory at previously unbeaten Modesto Christian — which was coming off its bye.
“To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the bye,” Musseman said. “If you look at what happened in our league, every team lost a game after their bye. You just get in a routine and a rhythm but with the bye the focus gets a little off. It’s just a weird environment.
“I will say that the kids have come out and practiced hard. I couldn’t be more pleased.”
The Indians’ defense, which has four shutouts this season, will have to be on its toes against Mountain House’s read-option attack that averages 38.5 points. The Mustangs galloped their way to 527 yards and took advantage of four second-half interceptions to break away from Union Mine.
Quarterback Jesse Jordan and running backs Vladik Sutherland (914 yards, 13 TDs; 213 yards receiving, three TDs) and Elias Escobar (652 yards, eight TDs) do much of the heavy lifting for the Mountain House offense. The Mustangs also have some good-sized receivers in 6-foot-3, 190-pound tight end Jakob Moberg (354 yards, three TDs) and 6-4, 205-pound Kenami Maggard (230 yards, four TDs). Maggard is also a prolific pass rusher, as he leads the state with 19 sacks.
Jordan has thrown for 863 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 848 yards and seven scores.
“The read-option is difficult to defend and they are having success with it,” Musseman said. “We have to stop their running back, but their quarterback is also a running threat who makes really good decisions and reads. Slowing them down in the run game is definitely our priority.”
A win Friday could set Ripon up with a revenge game of its own, as No. 3 Bear River (9-1) hosts No. 6 Center (9-3) in the other quarterfinal on their half of the bracket. It was Bear River — the defending Division V champion — that knocked Ripon out in the semifinals last year, 14-7.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Mountain House vs. Ripon
WHAT: SJS Division V quarterfinal
WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Stouffer Field
ADMISSION: $10 adults, $7 seniors (60-above), students (K-12), Children 5-under free