RIPON – Everything looked to be humming along quite nicely for the Ripon Indians at the end of the first quarter.
Three different players managed to find the end zone and the defensive unit managed to hold Riverbank to a grand total of 28 yards in the game’s first 12 minutes – a sure sign that the Indians would easily cruise to their ninth straight win of the season and at least a share of the Trans Valley League championship.
But on paper the Indians were playing a much different game.
A fumble on the game’s opening drive cost Ripon an early score, and another fumble at the start of the second quarter would allow Riverbank to finally get their foot in a door that was rapidly closing with their first touchdown of the night.
All-in-all Ripon dealt the knockout blow with their steady parade of shifty backs – with Anthony Baciocco hitting paydirt three times in the 41-19 victory – but the win wasn’t enough to erase the stain of a week that head coach Chris Johnson would take back in a minute.
“You could tell by the week of practice that we overlooked these guys and thought that we were simply going to walk in here tonight and come out with a victory and they showed us that wasn’t the case – they played hard and they played to win and I give them all of the credit in the world. That was a well-coached and well-prepared team,” Johnson said. “It was nice to get the win, but I hope tonight was a wake-up call to our kids. They’ve got to get up, come out and play.
“You can’t let down this time of year. Your momentum is supposed to carry you forward at this point – not the other way around.”
Even with the two turnovers, the Indians (9-0, 5-0 TVL) kept solid field position and control of the football for the majority of the first half by intercepting a pair of passes from Riverbank quarterback Angel Torres.
Baciocco struck with a pair of first-half touchdowns from 2- and 12-yards out, respectively, and quarterback Kyle Wengel eventually connected with Cole Herrin on a 42-yard strike that would give Ripon an early 34-7 lead.
The Bruins (2-6, 0-4 TVL) had a hard time getting any offensive consistency in the game’s first half – going three-and-out on a pair of possessions and having one completed pass stripped by Bradley Clark that would set up a 22-yard field goal attempt for Herrin. The ball narrowly missed wide left.
But the inconsistency that Torres showed in the first half was gone when Riverbank came back out. He was agile out of the backfield to help keep the chains moving and stretched the field with half-a-dozen receivers to give the Ripon defensive secondary fits.
When Torres connected with Cecil Arias on a 23-yard strike with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter, the momentum had clearly shifted to the Bruins side of the field.
But Baciocco wasn’t about to let a season for the ages slip away.
On the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing possession he dashed 55-yards up the middle for a score that put the game firmly out of reach of Riverbank.
“We were struggling offensively all night, and they were coming hard so our coaches called for a trap play and I just followed my blockers,” said Baciocco – who finished with 130 yards on 12 carries and three touchdowns. “We needed that right there. I just that tonight we had a lack of focus and we didn’t do the jobs that were supposed to do and we let ourselves down.
“We’ll come back out next week refocused and ready to work. We got a piece of the TVL title tonight, but we want the whole thing outright and that’s what we’re going to work for.”