SONORA – If the game could have been summed up by a single play, this was it.
With 4:43 left to play in the first quarter and down by a touchdown, the Ripon High defense had managed to force the balanced Sonora offense to try for a 38-yard field goal.
Sonora’s kicker – also known as bruising inside runner Billy Kiriluk – had just enough foot to put the ball over the crossbar, but also got touched by an end rusher that got blocked into him on the play.
Flags fly. Automatic first down. The Wildcats score two plays later and Ripon isn’t able to get its foot back into the door in a 35-23 non-league loss at Dunlavy Field.
“Our kids fought back hard but we just made too many mistakes out there tonight and you can’t make that many mistakes and expect to come away with a win against a team like this,” Ripon head coach Chris Johnson said. “Honestly I felt like we should have won this game. That’s not taking anything away from Sonora because they’re a good football team and they do what they do very well.
“But I think that we’re just as good but made too many errors.”
And Sonora wasted no time in capitalizing on those errors.
On Ripon’s first play from scrimmage a completed pass became a fumble that the Wildcat defense quickly scooped up, and they danced into the end zone two plays later for the game’s first points. Ripon went three-and-out on their ensuing possession and Sonora put together a drive capped off by Kiriluk bowling ball run up the middle and a two touchdown lead that would be familiar for the rest of the night.
The Indians’ offense was far from stagnant. Quarterback Nick Price completed 16 of his 22 passes and turned the ball over only once during the entire contest. Jacob Duxbury finished the game five yards short of the rushing century mark and proved to be the sparkplug when Ripon needed it most.
But Kiriluk, who finished with 130 rushing yards, and Joe Page, who finished with 123, were a dynamic threat, and Page was equally accurate when he stepped up in the pocket.
“I think that we have guys that can step up as leaders – Nick Price has done a great job at that and Mario Roach is an amazing kid,” Johnson said. “But we needed more guys to step up tonight.”