It’s the scenario that every high school football player dreams of.
You’re down by three points against your biggest rival with the league title on the line and less than 15 seconds to take the snap and go for the glory.
So when Ripon High School’s Nick Price hurriedly forced the Indians to the line to take a rushed snap, he was literally scrambling for the game as he looked left and then came back to his right to float the ball up to Jacob Duxbury.
One-handed catch. Touchdown. Game over. Ripon wins 18-15.
“This is the best night of my life,” Duxbury said after the massive celebration at the 50-yard line that prevented the standard post-game handshake between the schools. “You have to have that mindset that you’re going to make that play and I knew in that moment that I was going to do everything that I could to get us that win.”
Ripon (6-3, 4-0 TVL) had tried the Price to Duxbury connection three times during their final drive, with the first end zone shot getting called out-of-bounds. A series of runs depleted the clock before the three-year starting senior quarterback got his team to the line for one last play and a chance at a TVL title on the line.
Price said he knew exactly who he was going to throw it to.
“Right now I just don’t know what to say – to make a one-handed catch right there,” Price said in disbelief. “I just saw Jake in the end zone right there and he kept telling me that he was going to win us this game and that’s what he did.”
Escalon (4-5, 1-3) has made the playoffs every year since 1997 and won the CIF State Division III championship in 2010. The loss to Ripon on Friday all but guarantees that streak will end this season.
Friday’s contest was a battle not only of league rivals, but of styles as well.
The Cougars relied on big running backs like Tim Costa to power through the inside of the line of scrimmage in a classic Wing-T format while Ripon’s hybrid offense takes the same inside running game and adds a dash of skill players and a steady quarterback that both can run and throw. Costa finished with 88 yards on 23 carries and for the majority of the night was the Escalon go-to back for short yardage and the kind of grinding drives that the school is known for.
And it was a slugfest.
Escalon didn’t retake the lead until there just under four minutes left to play in the game, giving Johnson and his staff the chance to put together one more perfect drive that was setup by a Matthew Dedonatis kickoff return out to the Escalon 40-yard line.
Four minutes. Forty yards. One championship.
“You can’t ask for a better win in a game like this – oh my gosh,” Ripon head coach Christ Johnson exclaimed. “This was one of those games that came down to who had the ball last. And it came down to just a kid making a play. And I just realized that we won the TVL championship.
“This is the ultimate battle between these two schools. They’re a great a program and this is what TVL football is all about.”
Duxbury finished the game with 57 yards rushing on 11 carries with a score and caught four passes for 27 yards including the game-winning touchdown. Price completed 8-of-16 passes for 57 yards and had one touchdown. He threw no interceptions.
Next week Ripon will travel to Hughson for the final regular season game. A win will give them the outright TVL championship – they will have finished undefeated in league – and improve their record to 7-3 heading into the CIF Sac Joaquin Section playoffs which a secured a berth to last week.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.