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Ripon controls tempo, Linden on the ground
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RIPON — Ripon High coach Chris Johnson may have a potentially good team.

Indicative of that was the Indians’ 41-28 non-league victory over Linden at Stouffer Field Friday.

“Our kids had to fight back after a tough first half,” said Johnson, who was frustrated by the 100-plus yards tacked off against his team during that span.

The Indians (1-1) not only cut down on their mistakes – try two penalties for 10 yards in the second half – but eventually wore down the Lions.

Ripon relied on the ground game led by Ryan Durrer and Alex Gustin.

Durrer scored four touchdowns while rushing for 145 yards on 21 carries. But it was Gustin, who had 214 yards on 18 pops, setting the tempo.

“We worked all week in practice on controlling the tempo,” said the Indian quarterback.

Linden had its own weapon in Jeremy Powers. The senior running back battered the Ripon defense with his game-high 260 yards rushing on 25 carries. In the process, he also scored three times.

The Indians capitalized on turnovers early on, with Cole Herrin intercepting a pass late in the first half and returning the theft to the Linden 31.

Six plays later, Durrer scored on a 5-yard run.

Linden bounced back in the second quarter, scoring on Powers’ 59-yard burst. His extra point kick momentarily put the Lions on top, 7-6.

It didn’t take long for Ripon to reclaim the lead. Shortly before the intermission, senior defensive lineman Travis Smith recovered a fumble. On the next play, Durrer scored on a 20-yard run.

Sophomore Anthony Boccioco converted the two-point try, hauling in Gustin’s PAT toss.

Down 14-7, Linden scored quickly on its first possession in the second half. Michael Ferrerya and quarterback Kevin Downer connected on a 60-yard scoring toss. The Indians maintained their slight advantage when the Lions missed the PAT kick.

Ripon answered back with Gustin finding Herrin on a 36-yard pass, setting up Louie Mejia’s 8-yard touchdown run.

From there, the Indians kept their attack on the ground, relying on the blocking by the offensive line to open up holes for the likes of Durrer, Mejia, Gustin and Alex Mears.

In the end, Ripon compiled 443 rushing yards.

“My passing may not have been ‘on’ but thanks to our guys up front, I was able to run the ball,” Gustin said.

Johnson agreed.

“Anytime you rush for that many yards it’s because of the ‘O’ line,” he said.

At the same time, Johnson was quick to praise his skilled players.

“Ryan (Durrer) had a great game while Alex (Gustin) controlled the tempo,” he added.

As for his team, Johnson believes the best his still yet to come.

Next up for Ripon is Ripon Christian.

But Johnson, who has yet to lose to the rival school, isn’t looking past the Knights.

“We will prepare for them as we do with any team on our schedule,” he said. “I respect RC.”