Ripon head coach Chris Musseman believes his team is in a must-win situation Friday when it hosts Trans-Valley League rival Escalon.
Not only would a win keep its hopes of garnering a league title alive, but it puts the Indians (1-1 TVL, 4-3 overall) in a better position to qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
“In our league you can get away with one loss and do very well, but you can’t get two,” Musseman said last Friday after a gut-punch of a defeat to Modesto Christian.
The Crusaders (2-0, 3-4) escaped Stouffer Field with an eventful 42-41 win thanks to a blocked PAT by Mario Hernandez with 1:52 left, beating the Indians for just the second time in the last eight years. Ryan Daggett gave Ripon an opportunity to at least tie it with his 16-yard pass to James Gaalswyk on fourth down. The Indians earlier had a 4-yard touchdown run from Roland Davis negated by a holding penalty, forcing the fourth-and-long.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Indians, who have also enjoyed some success against Escalon (2-0, 4-3) of late having won four of the last five meetings. It has been an up-and-down season so far for the Cougars, but their three losses have come against teams (Calaveras, Liberty of Madera, Patterson) with 6-1 records. They opened league with a 28-14 road win over reigning champion Hilmar.
Escalon’s Wing-T offense is led by Elliott Mello (666 rushing yards, 13 TDs), Hugo Alcala (303-2) and sophomore Kaden Christensen (235 yards, 11.2 per carry, five TDs).
It’s the final home game of the regular season for Ripon, which heads to Hughson and Hilmar the next two weeks.
Here’s a look at other Week 8 contests in the area:
Sierra (2-5) at East Union (5-2): The Lancers can clinch a second straight postseason berth on their final regular-season contest at Dino Cunial Field. A win could also set up a Week-10 showdown for the Valley Oak League’s third automatic playoff bid against Manteca, their other in-town rival.
East Union’s playoff chances were boosted with its 21-0 shutout at Lathrop. History favors Sierra in this matchup, as it holds a commanding 17-5 lead and has won 13 straight including last year’s 37-36 overtime thriller.
The Timberwolves are coming off a 48-7 loss at Oakdale but will have their top player, Larenz Redd, back after he served a one-game suspension for an ejection.
Manteca (5-2) at Weston Ranch (1-6): Manteca will look to improve to 14-0 all-time against struggling Weston Ranch, which surrenders an average of 54.6 points per game.
It’s a chance for the Buffaloes to continue establishing their running game after rushing for more than 200 yards for just the second time this season in last Friday’s 51-6 trouncing of Kimball. A win clinches a 14th postseason berth for 16th-year head coach Eric Reis.
Central Catholic (6-0) at Lathrop (3-4): The Spartans are still mathematically in the hunt for a playoff berth, but their next two opponents are ranked No. 25 (Oakdale next week) and 26 in the state, respectively, by Cal-Hi Sports.
Central Catholic put up 63 points in the first half of its 70-12 drubbing of Weston Ranch last week.
Ripon Christian (4-3) at Mariposa (3-4): The Knights competed well against 6-1 Gustine in Week 7, but three fourth-quarter turnovers led to a 20-6 defeat.
With the Southern Athletic League title likely out of reach, Ripon Christian can now focus on making the playoffs. Its next three opponents are a combined 7-14 with Mariposa representing the stiffest challenge.