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Ripon facing familiar foe in D-V semifinal
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Ripon quarterback Adam Barrera tries to evade Pioneer’s Hector Casas in the open field during a Sac-Joaquin Section Division V quarterfinal in Woodland last Friday. - photo by GARY JENSEN/


WHO: Ripon (8-4) vs. Escalon (10-1)

WHAT: Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semifinal

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m. kickoff

WHERE: Engel Field, Escalon High

ADMISSION: $12 general, $8 military/seniors (65-over), $5 students (K-12), children 5-under are free


Ripon is getting what it wants — another shot at Escalon.

The longtime Trans-Valley League rivals meet for the second time in five weeks this Friday at Engel Field. The TVL championship was up for grabs back on Oct. 22 when the host Cougars (10-1) took advantage of two early big plays for a 21-7 win. Now, they’re vying for a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V final.

“We couldn’t ask for more for our kids,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said. “That was a game we didn’t play very well in. We came out flat and it wasn’t a good night. It’s a chance to get it right this time. We’re excited, but then again so is Escalon. They’re going to be fired up, too.”

Ripon is the defending champion of this bracket, while Escalon has moved up after claiming the D-VI pennant in 2019. Both went on to capture state titles.

To set up this semifinal showdown, each had to get past a school from Woodland. Top-seeded Escalon scored 30 unanswered points to dispatch No. 8 Woodland, 39-12.

Ripon (8-4), the fifth seed, made the trip to No. 4 Pioneer and won, 39-20. The Indians overcame five turnovers by also forcing five turnovers while getting productive efforts from Adam Barrera (11-of-15 passing, three TDs), receiver Nolan Young (seven receptions, 124 yards, two TDs) and running back Caleb Johnston (nine rushes, 113 yards, three TDs).

Musseman said his offense still has much to clean up but believes its better off now than it was the last time the Indians saw Escalon. A late-season addition, Barrera is still learning Ripon’s Wing-T offense. His first start behind center was against Escalon a month ago, but his playmaking ability on the run gave the Indians a needed boost out of the backfield.

“We’re a little behind and it’s nothing he’s doing wrong,” Musseman said. “He’s picking it up and getting it, but we’re still coaching things we don’t normally have to at this point in the season. He hasn’t been in our program four years like these other seniors.”

Escalon is loaded with youthful veteran players who have been battle tested all season. Sophomore Donovon Rozevink (1,242 yards, 18 TDs, 11 INTs) and 6-foot-3 receiver Owen Nash (601 yards, five TDs) head a balanced Wing-T attack that features four rushers with about 400 yards or more.

Ripon did well to stay in the game in the previous meeting at Escalon despite early mistakes that led to a 14-0 deficit within minutes.

“What it really came down to was the first four minutes,” Musseman said. “We got behind 14-0 four minutes into it and were playing catch-up the rest of the night. We couldn’t really play our game and it really hurt us being in the middle of a transition at quarterback. There were a lot of things going on but those are not excuses — we did not execute well on the offensive side.”

Ripon and Escalon are among the four TVL teams still left in the postseason. Hilmar is on the other side of the Division-V bracket at the No. 6 seed and gets to host No. 7 Casa Roble, while Livingston is alive in the Division-VI semifinals. Escalon and Hilmar own nine and eight Section titles, respectively.

“The TVL is great preparation for the playoffs,” Musseman said. “In Division V, at least one TVL team is going to a final. Ripon-Escalon is always a big one, but now it’s in Section semifinal.”