Add Ripon to the list of area teams forced to pull out of their final games of the pandemic-shortened spring football season.
Head coach Chris Musseman was informed Thursday morning that his varsity and junior varsity teams have positive COVID-19 cases and cannot compete tonight at Oakdale. The Indians, who lost all three varsity games they did get to play, were also knocked out of their Week 3 contest against Weston Ranch.
Musseman said he called every player out of class Thursday to meet outside as a group at 10 a.m. and tell them face-to-face that their season is finished.
“That was incredibly hard to do,” Musseman said. “This is the second time I've had to tell them we don't have a game, and it's not just that we don't have a game but your season is over. For the seniors, it's over.”
Ripon is one of four Manteca-area schools to have their football seasons end prematurely.
Lathrop's varsity knew its season was done last week after receiving positive test results mere hours before kickoff of its final home game. That also knocked the Spartans out of their finale this week at Johnansen because of safety concerns, as the 10-day quarantine did not allow them to meet for practice leading up to the contest. All told, they were removed from four games and one scrimmage. Lathrop lost to Mountain House 22-15 in its only contact with another team.
Also out this week is East Union's varsity, which was set to face off with rival Manteca (4-0) for the 54th time on Saturday. The Lancers (2-2) got their test results on Tuesday, and because of contact tracing their previous opponent, Weston Ranch, was also forced to call off its final game scheduled for tonight against visiting Kimball.
The two Valley Oak League teams left without varsity opponents found notable replacements, as Oakdale tangles with Merced while Kimball locks up with Hughson.
Only two local varsity teams are left standing: Sierra heads to Escalon tonight, while Manteca welcomes McClymonds on Saturday for a rematch of their 2019 California Interscholastic Federation Division II-A NorCal Regional Bowl Game. In the lower levels, Lathrop's JV travels to Escalon tonight, and East Union's freshmen and JV host Manteca on Saturday.
Ripon is one of two Trans-Valley League schools that joined the competitive Valley Oak League for the academic year. The Indians lost to fellow defending TVL co-champ Escalon 10-7 last Saturday despite having no practices because they were in quarantine.
With most of its key players graduated from the 2019 CIF Division IV-AA state championship team, Ripon showed improvement in its short season after a discouraging 39-6 loss to East Union in the opener. The Indians then went toe-to-toe with VOL heavyweight Manteca and even held a five-point lead at the end of three quarters before falling, 47-28.
“I couldn't be more proud of how they handled it,” Musseman said. “They had to deal with adversity every week. Not one game did we have a full team, and we played some good teams — we didn't get to play any softies.
“Last week, we went 12 days without practice, walked onto the field and should have beaten Escalon. I'm proud of the resolve and character of the players. I really feel that if we had a regular season with these guys, we would have shocked some people.”
WEEK 5 SCHEDULE
Lathrop at Escalon (JV), 5 p.m.
Sierra at Escalon (V), 7 p.m.
Manteca at East Union (F/JV), 11 a.m./1 p.m.
McClymonds at Manteca (V), 6 p.m.