WOODLAND – Andrew Brown only needed 117 yards to capture this year’s Sac-Joaquin Section rushing title during Friday night’s semifinal matchup against Woodland Christian.
The Ripon Christian (10-2) senior standout tallied up 133 yards in the first half alone and finished with four touchdowns and 285 yards on 19 carries.
The third-seeded Knights, who came up short in the last two semifinals, punched their ticket to next Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship game after blowing out the No. 2 seeded Cardinals, 46-0.
“We’re not talking about (the rushing title),” Ripon Christian’s first-year head coach Randy Fasani said. “This is the ultimate team sport, and we’re trying to win a section championship.”
Ripon Christian will be making its first section finals appearance in the ninth-year program’s history. The Knights will play against top-seeded Bradshaw Christian of Sacramento next weekend at the Grape Bowl in Lodi at 1 p.m.
“(Bradshaw Christian) has exceeded expectations in the Sac-Joaquin Section,” Fasani said. “They are climbing the respect chart in the area, and I think everybody – when they play Bradshaw Christian – knows they’re in for a tough game.”
Woodland Christian (9-2) was in for a tougher game against Brown and the Knights, who proved to be bigger, stronger and athletically superior.
The Knights played solid on the defensive line, and junior Jake Schollenberg arguably had the highlight of the night. Schollenberg put the game’s first points on the board after intercepting a pass and returning it 57 yards to the end zone for the 7-0 advantage.
Schollenberg batted the ball down with his left hand and caught it at his ankles right before the ball hit the floor, returning it for a pick-six.
The Knights’ defense held Woodland Christian to 128 yards of offense and forced five turnovers.
Brown scored his first touchdown from 80 yards away with 4:45 left in the first quarter to make it 14-0.
“That wasn’t the best (Brown) has played,” Fasani added. “But I’m proud of him for fighting through a tweaked knee, and he’ll be ready for next week. He’s a tough kid and he fought. You saw it in the second half, he played well, ran hard and broke of bunch of tackles.”
Ripon Christian’s Keegan Rivera had two fumble recoveries in the first half. On the first play of the second quarter, Ethan McMurray landed a big hit on Chance Stocking of Woodland Christian. Stocking coughed it up and McMurray recovered.
McMurray also had the first touchdown of the second half after breaking free on an 18-yard reverse that made it 27-0.
Kevin Kramer’s 12-yard TD run in the second quarter made it 21-0 heading into the half. Kramer had 65 yards on eight carries and RC finished with 427 yards on the ground.
The Knights, who went up 33-0 midway through the third with a Brown 2-yard touchdown run, fumbled the ball seven times and the Cardinals recovered four of them.
Brown had two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, one from 10 and the other from 42 yards out to make up the final.
“This is one of the best feelings I think all of us have ever had in our entire lives,” said Brown, who surpassed Central Valley’s Ja’Quan Gardner as the section’s leading rusher and still has one more game to play.“Tonight we didn’t execute as well as we’d like to, but we executed and got the win. I think we’re all just really excited about that.
“I’m so honored to be a part of this. My team has been the sole reason that I got anything this year. My team has played incredible and I’m really thankful to have them have my back.”