SACRAMENTO — The loss wasn’t what hurt. The taxing physical struggle with the stout Pride of Bradshaw Christian wasn’t the cause of the pain.
For Ripon Christian quarterback Danny Vos, the tears that followed a 61-40 defeat to theSac-Joaquin Section Division-VI playoff favorite represented much more.
Epitomizing the camaraderie of this group of Knights (7-5), players remained in a close huddle with each one taking turns hugging another for several minutes after head coach John Vander Schaaf gave his final postgame speech of a historic season for the eighth-year program. They relished the moment as long as they could.
“It’s just the fact that it’s now over with these guys,” Vos said. “We’ve come so far and there’s so much we have accomplished together as a team. It’s a brotherhood — we all get along so well.”
Bradshaw Christian will face No. 2 Foresthill, a 43-30 winner over No. 6 Vacaville Christian, next Saturday, Nov. 26 at Lodi’s Grape Bowl. The Pride (10-1) is after its third section title in four years.
Led by Vos and running back Andrew Brown, fourth-seeded Ripon Christian valiantly came back from a 33-12 halftime deficit to make it a one-score game.
But No. 1 Bradshaw’s rugged Wing-T attack was too much.
The Pride dominated possession, running 75 plays to RC’s 42 while piling up 27 first downs to 13. Bradshaw Christian ended up with 634 rushing yards, nearly doubling the Knights’ total of 372.
L.J. Upshire produced mind-boggling numbers thanks to the relentless push provided by 5-foot-10, 280-pound Ian Fowler and other hearty linemen such as Francisco Hernandez (6-4, 285) and Zach Rangel (5-10, 240). Upshire’s 424 yards and seven touchdowns on 29 carries are sure to open some eyes.
Sophomore quarterback Kevin Williams (12 rushes, 46 yards) accounted for the Pride’s other two touchdowns, both coming on 1- and 11-yard rushes. He did little through the air, partly because he didn’t have two. Two of his three passes were intercepted, one by Brown and the other resulting in a 57-yard pick-6 from Chris Saenz.
“It seemed like the wheels fell off in the first half, and instead of complaining and fighting with each other they stuck together and tried like crazy,” Vander Schaaf said. “It was a great comeback, and it’s all we could ask. The other team was just too big and too strong.”
Brown sparked Ripon Christian’s second-half comeback attempt on the opening kickoff, taking it 95 yards to paydirt. After the defense forced Bradshaw to punt for the first and only time, RC was able to score on two plays thanks to runs of 45 and 5 yards by Brown.
Just like that the Knights were back in it, 33-26.
“We always believed,” Vos said. “Our line came up big in the second half. They blocked real well all game and opened up some nice holes for Andrew, and the receivers ran good routes.”
The two teams would then trade scores until RC tallied its final points 5 seconds into the fourth quarter when Brown recorded his third TD of the half, making it 47-40. Ripon Christian turned the ball over on downs on its final two possessions while Bradshaw pulled ahead with 13- and 36-yard scoring scampers from Upshire.
Vos finished 12-of-20 passing with 242 yards and a 72-yard touchdown pass to 6-3 receiver Josh Van Groningen (4 receptions, 162 yards). As for Brown, he padded his program record-setting stats with 124 yards on 15 carries.
It was a season of firsts for Ripon Christian, which won seven games including a postseason contest for the first time.
“I feel honored to be a part of the school and a history-making team,” said standout two-way lineman Anton den Dulk. “That’s something that will always stay with me.”