RIPON — The Trans-Valley League opener between Ripon High and defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI champ Hilmar Friday had the feel of the postseason.
“For us, it was a playoff game,” said Indians coach Chris Musseman after his team held on for a thrilling 23-21 victory at Stouffer Field.
Ripon (1-0 TVL, 5-0) reeled off a 7 ½ minute drive in the third quarter and overcame some anxious moments to stun the Yellowjackets.
Quarterback Ryan Daggett came up big in the second half. He capped off that long-sustaining drive by hitting Nico Ilardi on a 30-yard touchdown and then broke loose for a 31-yard sprint to the end zone late in the game.
“Shout-out to my offensive line,” he said following the game.
Daggett completed eight of his 14 passes for 102 yards and picked up another 54 yards on the ground on 10 carries.
Hilmar (0-1 TVL, 1-4 overall) had an overwhelming statistical edge. All-purpose tailback Isaac Sharp finished with a game-high 219 yards on 16 carries while scoring a pair of touchdowns.
“He got us,” Musseman said.
The Indians, on the other hand, had plenty of contributors.
Caleb Delgado recovered a fumble moments after Ripon mishandled a punt, while Justin Hansen and Danny Hernandez both came up with interceptions. Defensive end Troy Brogan had several big plays, including a deflected pass and sack. Grant Wiebe blocked a 37-yard field goal try by the Yellowjackets.
Offensively, running back Derric Roy picked up some tough yards to help keep the chains moving, finishing with 45 yards on nine pops.
“We looked forward to this game for a long time,” Daggett said.
It was Hansen’s pick at midfield in the first quarter that set up the game’s first score.
Daggett found Hernandez for 17 yards, while Roland Davis went untouched on his 20-yard scoring run, going right up the gut.
Nathan Valdez’s conversion kick gave Ripon a 7-0 early lead, which lasted all of nine seconds.
Sharp got around the edge and found daylight on the ensuing play from scrimmage, racing 68 yards to paydirt.
Early in the second quarter, the Indians — thanks to a couple of big runs by Hernandez — got the lead back on Valdez’s 34-yard field goal.
Ripon led 10-7 at the break and finally tacked on another score in the third.
Following the blocked field goal, the Indians strung together a long drive that culminated with Daggett finding Ilardi. Earlier, he just missed on a touchdown pass, as Yellowjackets defensive back Ryan Millan swatted the ball away at the last moment.
“We ran motion to clear out the safety,” said Daggett on the scoring the play that freed up Ilardi.
Musseman noted that it took a while for his team to finally figure out Hilmar. The Indians tried to engineer another long drive in the fourth but coughed up the ball to the Yellowjackets.
Hilmar returned the favor by fumbling ball away just moments later. Delgado came up with the recovery.
With 1:42 left in the game, Daggett gave his team some breathing room by sprinting 31 yards for the touchdown.
Down 23-14 — quarterback Ryan Teixeira set up Sharp’s 11-yard TD run with his 41-yard scramble — the Yellowjackets answered back with Justin Rentfro pounding the ball into the end zone on a 1-yard run with 1:04 left.
Ripon milked the clock and held on for the win.
“We showed heart and character (against Hilmar) tonight,” Musseman added.
Hilmar 7 0 0 7 — 23
Ripon 7 3 7 6 — 14
R — Roland Davis 20 run (Nathan Valdez kick), 5:20.
H — Isaac Sharp 68 run (Bryan Millan kick), 5:09.
R — Valdez 34 FG, 10:02.
R — Nico Ilardi 30 pass from Ryan Daggett (Valdez kick), 0:55.2.
H — Sharp 11 run (Millan kick), 7:37.
R — Daggett 31 run (kick blocked), 1:42.
H — Justin Rentfro 1 run (Millan kick), 1:04.