RIPON — In a dead sprint Modesto Christian has the edge over its Trans-Valley League foes.
That is why Ripon was counting on its marathon legs for Friday’s first-place duel at Stouffer Field. The Indians used a deeper roster to their advantage in what was a surprising 49-14 walloping. In the final minutes, it was the clock doing the running.
“We felt that if it turned into a track meet, which we expected it to be with the talent they have, we could wear them down,” Ripon head coach Chris Johnson said.
That they did.
Ripon (3-0 TVL, 5-3 overall) turned the Crusaders’ uptempo pace against them in the second half, hustling to the line of scrimmage for the next snap after every play. By the fourth quarter, it was the gassed Crusaders (2-1, 3-5) struggling to keep up with the Indians.
Ripon has run the hurry-up offense in small spurts all season, but Johnson said it was specifically to prepare for this game.
“We just figured that if we could keep up and survive the first quarter we can wear them down,” he said. “They have great athletes but they have 18 players. Mike (Parsons) does a great job but we have more depth this year.”
They also have Jacob Duxbury and an underrated defense aching to prove its worth. While Modesto Christian has the athletes who pass the look test, the 5-foot-7, 155-pound Duxbury shined brightest and burned the Crusaders for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns
“Our line is doing fantastic and making big holes for me,” said Duxbury, who rushed 12 times for 136 yards. “We’re just getting it done.”
He scored Ripon’s first two touchdowns on 9- and 57-yard scampers. Nick Price (10 of 14, 136 yards) later hit Duxbury (six receptions, 67 yards) for touchdown tosses of 6 and 26 yards, the latter of which opened up a 42-14 lead with 5:44 left in the third quarter.
Ripon outgained the Crusaders 397-304 and had three rushers with at least 50 yards. Caleb McCusker added 52 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, and Matthew Dedonatis had 56 yards and a score on his 10 attempts. Ryan Wilson got the clock running late in the fourth quarter with a 20-yard jaunt on his only carry.
The defense held 1,000-yard rusher Chris Brown to just 45 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Paul Puaauli, a wrecking ball of a back at 5-11, 215, paced Modesto Christian with 81 yards. Quarterback Bransen Reynolds was 15 of 30 for 125 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions.
Johnson said his team’s challenging nonleague schedule, which includes a loss to 8-0 Patterson, prepared it for the combination of size and speed that Modesto Christian possesses.
“As good as Chris Brown is, we’ve seen Michael Lawson (Patterson) and we’ve seen Mark Paule (Sierra),” Johnson said. “We’ve seen great backs, so we weren’t intimidated going into this game because we’ve seen that kind of talent before. Brown is a great player but we thought we could match up across the board.”
Aaron Paschini and Matthew Ysit, who also had several tackles for losses, each came up with picks in the first quarter. Ysit’s interception set up Ripon’s two-play drive capped by McCusker’s 3-yard touchdown that gave Ripon a 21-7 lead.
Brown closed Modesto Christian in early in the second quarter with a two-yard run on fourth-and-1, but he and the Crusaders were held scoreless the rest of the way.
Ripon preserved the second-half shutout with a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-1 from the Indians’ 4, outside linebacker Cody Haines dropped Brown for a 3-yard loss and a turnover on down.
“It felt great,” Haines said. “That just sealed the deal. We just wanted to send a message to the TVL. We wanted to show that we can hold down the best.”
Modesto Christian was averaging 38.3 points per game and stunned previously-unbeaten Hughson 48-47 in overtime last week. With Hilmar — which Ripon downed 52-35 in the TVL opener — nipping Hughson 43-42 in OT Friday, the Indians now have the target on their backs with two games remaining. Up next is their regular-season home finale with traditional rival Escalon. Ripon can clinch a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth and a share of the TVL title before heading to Hughson in Week 10.
“It’s Escalon and Ripon — you don’t have to say anything else,” Johnson said. “We’ve had some battles with those guys forever.”