RIPON – Technically, the Cannon Club’s first blast came after Michael Ysit crossed the goal line just 15 seconds into the game.
Lathrop coach Steven Wichman might argue that point.
Ysit scooped up a bouncing ball at his own 8-yard line, picked a seam down the middle of the field and …
The area’s top playmaker added yet another highlight to his senior portfolio, returning Friday’s opening kickoff 92 yards and setting the tone in a 43-0 pasting of Lathrop.
“When you run the opening kickoff back, it changes everything,” Ripon coach Chris Johnson said. “It ignites our sideline and demoralizes the other team. I think you saw that tonight. It’s tough when you know you need to stop him and you couldn’t.”
Lathrop slipped to 0-3 and has now lost two straight in this regional showdown by a combined score of 80-3. Wichman didn’t dispute Johnson’s assessment of the Indians’ first touchdown.
Ysit entered the game averaging more than 21 yards per rush and 31 yards per catch, and he was every bit as explosive as those numbers would suggest.
As soon as he cracked the first line of Lathrop’s kickoff coverage, the Spartans were chasing.
The run-back opened the flood gates.
Michael Morris and Ryan Fugit scored two touchdowns apiece and futbol star Roberto Alvarez easily scored a 46-yard field goal as the mighty Indians continued an intimidating trend – the blowout.
“It’s very difficult. It takes a lot to move the ball down the field and score. Touchdowns don’t come easy in this game,” Wichman said. “Anytime you can take the first kickoff to the end zone that’s a big gain of momentum.
“Teams that control the momentum usually end up being successful. That gave them control.”
Ripon outgained Lathrop 445-195 and played the entire second half without Ysit, a two-way player. With Escalon and the start of Trans-Valley League play on the docket next Friday, Johnson decided to sit his star for the final two quarters.
The Indians would be fine without him.
For the fourth time this season, an offense led by sophomore quarterback Nick Price scored 41 or more points. For the third time, the defense – taking its cues from linebacker Claudio Santos (two sacks) and Lucas Bunting (interception) – pitched a shutout.
For good measure, Alvarez’s career-long field goal came as the halftime buzzer sounded.
“When we click in all phases, we’re a very good football team,” Johnson said. “They (Lathrop) have guys that can make plays, but we scouted them out, put kids in the right places and let them go make plays.”
The Indians led 27-0 after the first quarter.
Morris scored on short goal-line blasts to make it 21-0. Fugit capped the opening-round barrage with a 5-yard run of his own.
Fugit finished with 96 yards on seven carries, while Morris shouldered most of the load. The tailback toted the ball 17 times for 92 yards.
“It’s dirty. We’ve got a lot of players than can do a lot of different things,” said Price, the switchboard operator in the Indians’ multi-prong attack. Price was 7 of 11for 128 yards.
“I don’t know how you prepare for us. I love this team. This is probably the best team I’ve been in all my years of football.”
Ripon expects its first test next week. The Indians welcome longtime rival Escalon in what Johnson dubbed a “measuring-stick” game.
Isn’t it always?
“Things get tough … things get tough really quick,” Johnson said. “They’re always the measuring stick. You look at the last 20 years, it’s the Escalon Cougars. We’ll find out how good we really are. We can’t wait. It’s time. It’s the Trans-Valley League.”
For Lathrop (0-3), it’s back to the drawing board.
The offense struggled to sustain drives, reaching Ripon territory just twice in the first half. The Spartans’ best drive of the first half ended with a turnover at the Ripon 5-yard line.
Quarterback Kenny Garrett hesitated on a wheel route up the sideline, shorting a pass to Kevin Rainey. Bunting slid in for the interception, and eight plays later, Davis Armstrong rumbled around the edge on a 16-yard sweep to make it 34-0.
Lathrop finds itself in a rivalry game next week, as well.
The Spartans will play host to Weston Ranch in the first-ever “Battle for I-5” bowl.