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Ripon gets needed confidence boost in win
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Ripon ball carrier Michael Winters gets separation from Grace Davis linebacker Mohammed Salameh. - photo by ZARIA GRIFFIN/

MODESTO — Ripon’s nightmare at Sonora is now in the rear-view mirror.

And the Indians left host Grace Davis behind with a 20-point outburst in the final period of a 34-7 trouncing Thursday at Downey High’s Chuck Hughes Stadium. Last week they were clocked 69-7 by Sonora, the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion that has the look of a state-title contender.

The bounce-back effort against Davis was what the doctor ordered, even though Ripon (2-2) was slow to start. The Spartans (2-2) had their way in the first half with their persistent running game — anchored by Sal Rodriguez (nine rushes, 90 yards) and Mohammed Salameh (22 rushes, 80 yard) — and had the lead until Ripon quarterback Ryan Daggett hit Aaron Paschini for a 22-yard touchdown on the final play from scrimmage before the break.

“I think they were still shell-shocked from last week and it took a half,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said. “We needed to get a couple of scores to where the attitude was better for the kids.”

Ripon’s first two drives stalled inside the Grace Davis 35, and the Spartans drew first blood on their second possession when Rodriguez bolted 64 yards to the end zone. Davis had an opportunity to double the lead on its next series but turned it over on downs in the red zone.

The Ripon struggled to gain traction until the end of the half, when Daggett orchestrated an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive. The sophomore was undeterred after his 24-yard touchdown strike to Paschini was negated by a chop-block penalty. 

Then on third-and-20 with 20 seconds to go from the Spartans’ 34 he found Ryan Wilson for a 12-yard gain on a screen pass. With all of their timeouts expended for the half, Daggett rushed the Indians to the line of scrimmage and got the snap off with three seconds left before hooking up with Paschini again, only this time the touchdown counted.

“That could be a turning point in the season for us,” Musseman said. “We stunk for pretty much the entire first half and that last drive we put it together.  You can see it in the eyes of the kids; they were starting to buy back into what we’ve been preaching. I think after last week they weren’t sure if they wanted to buy in.”

Daggett finished 15 of 23 for 236 yards an interception and two touchdowns, both going to Paschini. Paschini had seven catches for 130 yards after seeing limited action in Sonora with a shoulder injury.

“It was hard, but the coaches did it to keep me healthy,” Paschini said. “It all worked out. I was looking forward to this one a lot. I knew I could help the team out and the coaches do a good job of putting me in positions to score.”

His second TD catch helped put the game away for good. Shortly after Ripon turned it over with a fumble inside the Grace Davis 5, Rhett Herrin came down with an interception after Dylan Sexton initially tipped it into the air. Then on the next play, Daggett spun a perfect pass to Paschini, who burned a defender in one-on-one coverage for a 32-yard score and a 21-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.

With Ripon finding its groove through the air, it was also able to get it going on the ground. Ryan Wilson paced the Indians with 143 yards and a touchdown. Michael Winters (10 rushes, 45 yards) and Riley Machado (10 rushes, 39 yards) each added 9-yard scoring scampers.

The defense also stepped up after giving up 155 yards rushing in the first half. Grace Davis was held to just 52 yards from scrimmage in the second half. Jesus Torres contributed a sack, and Bryce Kinsey recovered a fumble.