Ripon hadn’t won since claiming its California Interscholastic Division IV-AA state championship in 2019.
Behind Jack Manning’s breakthrough effort, the Indians ended their losing streak at five on Friday with a stunning 34-22 win at Center.
It was a rematch of the 2019 Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship game and a much-needed result for a team in need of an emotional lift. Aside from the losing skid, which includes the pandemic-shortened spring season, Ripon (1-2) was coming off short rest and dealing with injuries and depth issues.
The Indians’ game with Sonora was twice postponed and ultimately took place Monday in Gold Country, and they were left scrambling for a new opponent this week after original foil East Nicolaus had to back out because of a COVID-19 outbreak on its campus.
In contrast, Center had its game canceled altogether last week and was more physically fit for Friday’s contest. The Cougars opened their season with a 68-7 thrashing of Rio Linda.
“We have dealt with so much over the last year and half and these kids deserved this tonight,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said. His team’s spring season included two game cancelations because of COVID issues. “We lost a key guy on both sides of the ball in the first half, and they all stepped up, came together and fought as a group. That group mentality is what we have been missing. It was great to see that.”
Ripon never trailed after Manning tallied the game’s first points with a 78-yard punt return in the middle of the first quarter. The senior running back added a 19-yard TD scamper in the fourth quarter, finishing with 114 yards on 10 carries. Manning was forced to sit out much of the Sonora game as a precautionary measure after colliding with a teammate on a tackle attempt.
“Jack is our big-play guy and he really came through for us tonight,” Musseman said.
Fullback Caleb Johnston carried the load Monday and bulldozed his way to 80 yards and three touchdowns on 13 rushes. Ripon totaled 260 yards on the ground.
“The game got really chippy early on, but I am proud of how they fixed their reactions to do the right thing,” Musseman said. “We made a ton of mistakes and there is a lot to fix, but this is a step in the right direction.
Ripon Christian 49, Calaveras 34
The Knights (2-1) overcame a sloppy start in which they fumbled on their only two plays of the first quarter, allowing Calaveras (1-2) to stake a 14-0 lead.
Ripon Christian answered with 21 unanswered points and was unstoppable in the second half as junior quarterback Trey Fasani and sophomore running back Grant Sonke got untracked.
Fasani completed 8 of 14 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns. He hit 6-foot-9 tight end Thys Van der Hoek on 3- and 25-yard scoring strikes, and Micah De Jong from 10 yards out. Fasani also rushed for 65 yards.
Sonke totaled four touchdowns, one being a 78-yard dash on the second-half kickoff. From scrimmage, he amassed 110 yards and three scores on 16 carries.
Ripon Christian was coming off a 35-7 loss to Sacramento, a talented Division III opponent — the Knights play in a D5/6 league — that was a late replacement. Coach Phil Grams said that game helped give his team a newfound confidence.
“We felt like we played Sac High even in the second half, and Sac was very physical,” Grams said. “I feel that gave our guys the feeling that they can play with anyone.”