ESCALON – The Ripon High football team battled wet conditions, a sloppy field and a tough Escalon squad at Engel Field.
The Indians led most of the way during this crucial Trans Valley League clash, only to see the Cougars prevail Friday, 14-9. The loss eliminates Ripon from playoff contention.
Brandon Grogan’s 58-yard punt return set up Wesley Dick with the go-ahead touchdown at the 7:26 mark in the fourth quarter.
“They made the most of their big-play opportunities in the second half,” Ripon coach Chris Johnson said of the Cougars. “We had those (same) opportunities in the first half.”
The wet conditions and the slippery turf bogged down the offenses for both teams.
Field position often proved vital.
The Indians (2-2, 3-6) got the first break of the game late in first quarter when an errant snap by Escalon, while in punt formation, squirted down to the Cougars’ 15.
Ripon pounded the ball inside from there as quarterback Nick Price capped the short drive with a 2-yard plunge to kickoff the second quarter.
Thomas Sidtikun’s extra point kick made it 7-0.
Escalon (4-0, 7-2) had trouble moving the ball against the Indians, who successfully stacked the box – they brought most of the defenders up to the line of scrimmage – throughout the first half.
Ripon capped it off with a safety shortly before halftime.
On special teams, Jacob Duxbury delivered a punt that was downed at the Escalon 1. Two plays later, the Ripon defense buried the ball carrier for a loss in the end zone, resulting in the two points and a 9-0 advantage at the intermission.
In the second half, the game of field position favored the Cougars.
Hunter Calton, who stepped in for the injured Christian May, provided some of that boost, finding the wet and muddy conditions to his liking. He finished with a game-high 127 yards on 22 carries.
But it was a toss from quarterback Caleb Mullen to A.J. Camarena – a pass play that covered 25 yards – that placed the ball at the Ripon 15. From there, Calton bolted in for the score.
Escalon also got the right bounce on the extra point. A botched snap resulted in kicker David Martinez running it in for the two-point conversion, in turn, cutting Ripon’s lead 9-7.
“The conditions made this a game of a chance and how the ball bounced,” Johnson said.
In the second half, the Indians had trouble moving the ball. Couple that with the passing game being a non factor, in part, because of the wet conditions. Receivers, for example, often found it difficult to maintain their footing on the slippery field.
Offensively, Duxbury was Ripon’s top rusher, finishing with 27 yards on 15 carries.
Escalon forged ahead on Grogan’s punt return and the Dick TD.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said Johnson. “They hung in there against a tough team.”