RIPON — Two Ripon Christian takeaways led to two quick fourth-quarter scores Friday and allowed the Knights to pull away for a 34-14 win over Le Grand in Southern League action.
With 5:12 left in the fourth period, Michael Kamps snagged an interception and returned it 60 yards to the Bulldogs 5-yard line. Willem Hoekstra took it the rest of the way on the next play for a 28-7 Knights lead.
Less than three minutes later on a play where Le Grand (1-5 SL, 2-7 overall) got confused about the snap count, the ball ended up on the ground under the Bulldogs’ right guard. Wyatt Van Vliet alertly covered up the ball for Ripon Christian (4-2, 6-3), and on the next play Max Steele (two carries, 77 yards) bolted 70 yards up the left sideline past his bench for a touchdown and 34-7 lead with 2:12 remaining in the game.
“It was just there,” Van Vliet said. “I saw it and just dove on it.”
That was Steele’s second trip to the end zone. His 7-yard scoring run on the third play of the second half gave the Knights a 14-7 lead they would not relinquish.
Kamps had another interception in the second quarter off of a tip by teammate Dale Fisher. But it was his ground-pounding running that yielded 152 yards on 27 carries with a 16-yard scoring run. Michael Solario (10 carries, 93 yards) had the other Ripon Christian touchdown on a 14-yard run in the fourth period.
“I think our O-line is getting better and better as the season goes on,” Kamps said. “I feel that when we establish our run game everything else opens up for us.”
Le Grand took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when Bubba Lara returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown. The Bulldogs would not score again until Elisha Tanka pulled in a 9-yard scoring pass from Alberto Marquez with just 31 seconds remaining in the game.
“We knew that Le Grand is a club that is never going to come in and give you anything,” Knights coach Trey Ozenbaugh said. “We felt that there were some things that we could do, but they put us in a situation early by making an adjustment when we made a bad read and that gave them a 7-0 lead.
“The strength of our team is our power running and our defensive front. That is what we got back to and that is what won us the ball game.”
Ripon Christian racked up 320 rushing yards and limited Le Grand to 169 yards of total offense.
Van Vliet led Ripon Christian with 10 tackles. Steele added five, Sean McGovern and Garrett Bryan four each and Kyle Rivera (three tackles) forced a fumble.
The win gave the Knights the sixth win needed to make the playoffs and they will wrap up regular-season play on Friday on the road against Delhi.
“I am very pleased with the win,” Ozenbaugh said. “We have to finish strong.
“It is nice to be qualified for the playoffs and we certainly would like a higher seed.”