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Ripon-Lathrop rivalry to kick off with field dedication
Lathrop High gets ready to kick off its very first varsity contest at home against Sierra on Sept. 11, 2009. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Week 3 Predictions


East Union (0-2) at Modesto Christian (1-2): The Lancers are in must-win mode and have had two weeks to prepare for MC, which like, EU, has an ambitious pre-league schedule (26-17, MC).


Stagg (3-0) at Manteca (1-1): Explosive Stagg averaged 51 points in its first three games and has speed everywhere, while Manteca searches for answers following a tough Week-2 loss (34-28, Stagg).


Ripon (3-0) at Lathrop (0-2): Lathrop’s new-look offense has had trouble getting untracked against solid competition, and Ripon is arguably better than its previous two opponents (41-14, Ripon).


Weston Ranch (1-1) at Bear Creek (1-2): The Ranch hasn’t sported a winning record going into league since 2007, and if it can get its passing game going that streak should end (25-14, W. Ranch).


Ripon Christian (1-1) at Big Valley Christian (0-2): There may be no more than 40 total varsity players suited up for this game, but the discrepancy in talent favors RC (35-13, RC).


Last week: 3-2 (13-2 overall).


—Jonamar Jacinto

This Friday marks a special moment in Lathrop High history.

The school’s football field will be dedicated Bennie Gatto Field in honor of the longtime community volunteer and former Lathrop City mayor.

Visiting Ripon, meanwhile, will look to celebrate a second straight 4-0 nonleague finish.

It is the first meeting between the two small towns separated by the city of Manteca. Lathrop athletic director Bill Slikker helped set up this new rivalry with good friend Chris Johnson, the A.D. and head football coach for Ripon. Slikker and Johnson are both Ripon High alumni.

The two teams are heading two different directions based on their starts. Ripon is coming off three blowouts in which the Indians have won by a near-45-point margin.

The Spartans of Lathrop, meanwhile, have scored just 13 total points in two landslide losses against stiff competition (Liberty Ranch, Capital Christian). The competition only gets stiffer Friday.

After giving up an average of 38 points in its first two games, Lathrop will try and slow down Ripon’s loaded wing-T offense that hurts defenses in many different ways. The 1-2 backfield punch of Josh McCreath (312 yards, 4 TDs) and Anthony Baciocco (254 yards, 6 TDs) is picking up where it left off from 2011 when they each accumulated over 1,000 rushing yards. They are joined by juniors Michael Morris (163 yards, 2 TDs) and Bradley Clark (120 yards, 2 TDs; 146 receiving yards, 3 TDs).

There’s more.

Lathrop also has to find ways to limit Cole Herrin (13 receptions, 215 yards, 1 TD), arguably the area’s top receiver and cornerback. His low-key production is mainly due to Ripon’s dominance in running the football, but when it has thrown Kyle Wengel (68 percent, 490 yards, 6 TDs) has been effective.

Lathrop is experiencing growing pains in its transition from a run-based wishbone offense to a more balanced multi-formation attack. Last week, undefeated Capital Christian held the Spartans to less than 30 total yards from scrimmage in the first half. Lathrop has also struggled with turnovers.

Quarterback Kenny Garrett has had some good moments. In Week 1 he found tight end Austin Plunk for a 25-yard touchdown pass, and Garrett rambled in from 39 yards out for the Spartans’ lone score against Capital.

East Union at Modesto Christian

Coming off a bye week, the Lancers (0-2) aim to cap an ambitious nonleague schedule with a victory, but it’s one that won’t come easily.

Modesto Christian (1-2) may not have the same potency in its air attack as it did a year ago when Nate Sudfeld (now at Indiana University) was flinging it, but there still some impressive skill athletes on the team.

The Lancers may not see a more talented wide out this season as they will in Damien Bell-White (116 yards, 3 TDs), a 6-foot-4 downfield threat. Halfback Anthony Brooks (128 yards, 2 TDs) and tight end Zach O’Leary are other weapons that QB Zack Megee (365 yards, 4 TDs) looks to in the passing game.

The Crusaders also boast three athletic running backs in JaVaughn Iversen (162 yards, TD), Andre Edwards (167 yards) and Brooks (128 yards, 2 TDs) who are complemented by hard-running FB Travis Sauser (89 yards, 2 TDs).

Stagg at Manteca

It’s gut-check time for the Buffaloes (1-1), who are coming off a 42-28 loss to Los Banos in which they gave up 337 yards and three scores to RB James Sams.

Stagg may not have a back like Sams, but they present Manteca a different set of challenges with its fast-paced spread offense. The Delta Kings (3-0) average 51 points per game, though against three teams with a combined 1-8 record.

Shifty QB Wayne Brooks is as much a threat to throw (696 yards, 9 TDs) as he is to run (69 yards, 4 TDs), and he has some impressive targets in 6-3 wide out Andre Lindsey (10 receptions, 272 yards, 5 TDs) and 5-5 sophomore speedster Lester Williams (10 receptions, 259 yards, 2 TDs). Williams is also Stagg’s second leading rusher behind Devon Gillum (141 yards, 3 TDs).

Weston Ranch at Bear Creek

Bear Creek (1-2) posted its first win last week, needing a 14-yard touchdown run with 9 seconds remaining to overcome Gregori of Modesto, 25-20. Gregori is in its second varsity season and is 0-13 overall so far.

Weston Ranch (1-1) was impressive defensively for a half against Tokay last week before ultimately falling, 28-6. Bear Creek also struggled offensively in a 41-7 season-opening loss to Tokay.

The Bruins are led by sophomore quarterback Bruce Webber, senior WR Carlos Lemus and senior RB James Nelson.

Ripon Christian at Big Valley Christian

The Knights (1-1) won’t face a team as good as crosstown rival Ripon for the rest of the season. Last week, Ripon retained the Ripon Bowl Rivalry Trophy with a resounding 62-13 win.

Ripon Christian blanked Big Valley 40-0 in its 2011 opener, and it has the talent to produce a similar result. The Lions (0-2), like RC, struggle with a lack of depth as only 19 players are listed on their roster. Zach Jenkins (7 receptions, 136 yards, TD), a 6-4 tight end, is their top offensive threat.