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Ripon hobbling into playoff opener against explosive Rosemont
Escalon-Ripon football
Ripon running back Xzavier Clark tries to evade Escalon linebacker Sawyer Mello in a Trans-Valley League game. GARY JENSEN/

Injury-hampered Ripon (4-6) hopes that the second-half effort against Hughson carries over into its Sac-Joaquin Section Division V tilt with Rosemont this Friday.

The Indians gets to host the Nos. 8-9 matchup following an up-and-down regular season filled with challenges from strong opposition and their own lack of depth caused by injuries. They ended their rigid Trans-Valley League schedule with a 21-19 loss to runner-up Hughson, trailing 21-0 at halftime before making things interesting. Trent Vink returned a blocked punt for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but Ripon failed on its two-point conversion attempt to tie it.

“We’ve been pretty beat up all year long,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said. “That’s no excuse, because the team has struggled, but in the second half in Hughson they figured a couple things out and hopefully it rolls over into this Friday.”

Ripon will again be without two-way standout Anden Ries, who has been out for almost a month with a knee injury. The sophomore running back/linebacker hopes to be available next week, should the Indians get past the Wolverines (7-3) from Sacramento. The winner travels to undefeated top seed Sutter, a longtime powerhouse that has moved from the Northern Section.

Rosemont is the third-place team out of the Sierra Valley Conference. The Wolverines and Indians share a common opponent in McClatchy, which lost to Rosemont 40-20 in Week 1 and 49-7 to Ripon the following week.

Two of Rosemont’s non-league victories were forfeits against Cordova and Amador in back-to-back weeks.

Junior running back Michael Cherry stars in the Wolverine’s pro-set veer offense. He is statistically one of the Section’s top rushers with 1m336 yards (9.7 per carry) and 15 touchdowns despite only playing eight games.

Cherry shares the backfield with 6-foot, 195-pound fullback Finis McDaniel Jr. (580 yards, seven TDs), who has rambled for 356 yards on just 17 carries the past three weeks.

Quarterback Joseph Ortiz is also a threat to run, and he has talent in the receiver spots with 6-foot-2, 180-pound Victor Noble (19 receptions, 446 yards, five TDs) and Kenny Hughes (22-395-3).

“Definitely a very athletic team,” Musseman said. “They have a dynamic running back and a quarterback who is also a dynamic runner. It’s a big challenge for us. They run an offensive that we’ve struggled against a little bit.”

TVL rival Livingston runs a similar offense and won at Ripon last week, 20-19.

Jasauni Nelson, a 270-pound tackle, leads the defense with 68 tackles. Defensive ends Robert Perry and Armani Bueno have combined for 12 sacks.