TURLOCK — A week ago, the Ripon Christian High Knights celebrated an emotional victory at top-seeded Modesto Christian.
On Friday, they suffered a disappointing loss in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championships, losing to Hilmar at Turlock High, 57-14.
“This is the third time we made it to the section championships only to lose,” said coach Trey Ozenbaugh. “But at same time, we also have plenty to be thankful for.”
His Knights are the reigning Southern Athletic League champion and finished the regular season 10-0 for the first time in program history. They made their third section final in the last seven years but once again came up emptyhanded.
Ripon Christian will have several core players returning including Sean McGovern, who scored both touchdowns against Hilmar.
He scooped up a ball and raced 55-yards to the end zone early in the third quarter — outside linebacker DeClan Van Vuren caused the fumble, knocking the ball out of Yellowjacket quarterback Treven Crowley, who was scrambling on the play — and, moments later, hauled in a 20-yard pass from quarterback Cade Alger.
“We had a great year and we’ll miss our seniors,” said McGovern, who also tallied six tackles against Hilmar. “We have a lot of juniors coming back.”
Van Vuren had four tackles.
He, too, is a junior and is looking towards the future of RC football.
“I think we can improve,” Van Vuren said. “We have to do better at playing in these big games.”
The Knights, all told, could have 23 of the 31 players on this year’s team coming back.
Ozenbaugh sees plenty of promise in RC moving forward, with character being first and foremost.
“Our pursuit of building (this program) is building of champions in these young men,” he said.