NEWMAN — Travis Zuidervaart flipped a pass toward the corner of the end zone, and the stadium watched ... and waited ... and held its breath.
The Ripon Christian quarterback showed his moxie on Friday evening, leading the Knights on a potential game-winning drive in the final minutes of a 49-43 shootout loss to Orestimba in their Southern League opener.
Zuidervaart inched the Ripon Christian offense down the field, chewing up the final five minutes of game clock. He darted forward for a pivotal first down on fourth-and-3, diving out of bounds at the Orestimba 8-yard with six seconds left.
The Knights (0-1 SL, 3-1 overall) would have two shots, but both of Zuidervaart’s throws fell incomplete. Ripon Christian’s final play was a fade to Dotinga, who was pinned in by two Warrior defensive backs.
Zuidervaart finished 14 of 30 for 209 yards with touchdown passes to Ethan McMurray and Dotinga.
McMurray had five catches for 113 yards, while Dotinga did a little of everything. He 59 hard-fought yards and one touchdown on 16 carries, four receptions for 26 yards, an interception and a touchdown pass to Ty Beidleman to make it 28-all at the half.
Ripon Christian scored the first 14 points of the game, but had a hard time corralling Orestimba’s big-play offnese. The Warriors scored 21 second-quarter points on just eight plays.
Orestimba quarterback Joe Sheldon threw four touchdowns and ran for another as the Warriors surged out of the halftime break with touchdowns on three straight possessions.
The Warriors led 42-28 when Zuidervaart and Dotinga nearly brought them back.
Dotinga scored on a 3-yard run and Zuidervaart tacked on the two-point conversion to make it 49-43 with 8:07 remaining. The Knights defense, playing without Southern League Defensive Player of the Year Will Kamps, made a final stand, to put the ball back in Zuidervaart’s hands.