HILMAR — By the time Ripon went into the locker room at halftime during the Trans Valley League opener Friday night against Hilmar, the team found itself without five of its starters — many of them two-way players the Indians needed to take on the defending CIF State Division VI-AA champion.
A resilient and hard-scrabble performance wasn’t enough for the Indians to overcome the deficit, as the Yellowjackets handed them their first loss of the season in a 38-27 rout.
Even with the loss, and the loss of a handful of his players, Ripon High head coach Chris Musseman saw bright spots in effort.
“It would have been really easy for us to give up tonight — we had guys that had never played these positions running things that they’ve never run before, and they fought all the way to the end against a good football team,” Musseman said. “We played two-and-a-half quarters with half of our starters out and if that wasn’t the case then this would have been a much different football game.
“Right now it’s all about getting these guys healthy and coming back to rebound from this.”
Ripon got out to an early lead in the contest after Danny Hernandez recovered a fumble to give the Indians offense a chance at a drive that culminated with an 11-yard Grant Wiebe touchdown.
It would be the last time that Wiebe would touch the football for Ripon, which would get one more offensive drive out of senior quarterback Nico Ilardi. He connected with Dorian Dougherty on Ripon’s next drive to extend its lead to 14-10.
Ilardi would be knocked out of the game on a 5-yard run at the end of first quarter— after which Hilmar had already taken the lead — and a host of other Indians, including backup quarterback/defensive standout Brandon Rainer and lineman/kicker Nathan Valdez would leave the game and not return.
Taking advantage of its depleted opponent, Hilmar — led by junior quarterback Seth Miguel, who completed 7 of his 12 passing attempts for 113 yards and two touchdowns and scrambled eight times for 77 yards and two additional scores — relied on its misdirection and bruising offensive attack to grind down the Indians even more to throw a wrench into the topsy-turvy TVL.
Hilmar, a team that Ripon beat last year, will now take on Escalon for first place in league. If Hilmar is victorious and Ripon is able to beat Escalon later this season — they will take on Riverbank next week, then Livingston before a bye week just before taking on their traditional rival— a slice of the league championship could potentially be shared three ways.
“This is where we have to go back and get healthy,” Musseman said. “We suited up 18 players tonight and lost five by the second quarter.
“I’m proud of how these kids fought to the end, but we just need to get healthy so that we can come back and show what a full team can do.”
Ripon 14 0 0 13 — 27
Hilmar 17 7 7 7 — 38
R—Grant Wiebe 11 run (Nathan Valdez kick), 8:39.
H—Justin Barros 51 pass from Seth Miguel (Miguel Padilla), 7:02.
H—Padilla 43-yard field goal, 5:11.
R—Dorian Dougherty 31 pass from Nico Ilardi (Valdez kick), 1:09.
H—Steven Silva 62 run (Padilla kick), 0:50.
H—Aidan Azevedo 2 pass from Miguel (Padilla kick), 5:50.
H—Miguel 8 run (Padilla kick), 3:33.
R—Danny Hernandez 2 run (Valdez kick), 10:30.
H—Miguel 2 run (Padilla kick), 7:14.
R—Dougherty 68 pass from Aaron Wood (conversion pass failed), 5:35.