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Sonke brothers shine as Ripon Christian staves off Orestimba
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Grant Sonke attempts what would be the deciding 25-yard field goal for Ripon Christian in the Knights’ 45-42 win over visiting Orestimba on Friday. Photo by ALEX BANKS/The Bulletin


Orestimba 14 14 0 14 — 42

Ripon Chr.  7   7 21 10 — 45


First quarter

O — Vincent Lopez 49 run (Angel Navarro kick), 11:19.

R — Grant Sonke 30 run (Sonke kick), 8:07.

O — Drake Perez 6 run (Navarro kick), 7:30.


Second quarter

O — Jayden Vargas 32 pass from Lopez (Navarro kick), 8:58.

R — Micah De Jong 4 run (Sonke kick), 5:59.

O — Lazs King 7 run (Navarro kick), 1:51.


Third quarter

R — Thys Van Der Hoek 53 pass from Trey Fasani (kick missed), 10:47.

R — Brady Grondz 4 run (Grondz run), 6:57.

R — Sonke 57 run (Sonke kick), 4:49.


Fourth quarter

O — Lopez 1 run (Navarro kick), 11:58.

R — Van Der Hoek 20 pass from Fasani (Sonke kick), 9:59.

R — Sonke 25 field goal, 5:51.

O — Vargas 28 pass from Devin Bettencourt (Navarro kick), 3:06.

RIPON — The Sonke brothers came up big in clutch moments during Ripon Christian’s thrilling 45-42 win over Orestimba on Friday.

Scrappy defensive lineman Alex Sonke capped his productive night with a game-clinching tackle on fourth down. Meanwhile, younger brother Grant rushed for 158 yards and made two key plays on special teams that gave the Knights (1-0, 4-1 overall) some breathing room in the latest classic between these Southern Athletic League titans.

“Pound for pound, as strong and as feisty as anyone,” RC coach Phil Grams said of the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Alex Sonke. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world but he’s got a great heart. And his little brother is going to be something special.”

Bulletin sports fall 2021
Ripon Christian’s Ethan Reif is hit by Orestimba’s Adrian Reyes as the ball gets to him. Photo by ALEX BANKS/The Bulletin
More on that “little” brother — a sturdy 5-11, 180-pound sophomore — later.

Alex Sonke gave Orestimba’s gargantuan offensive line — featuring Dejon Davenport (6-5, 300) and Landon Mendonca (5-11, 320) on the left side — some trouble with his speed. He twice dropped Warriors ball carriers for losses and sacked quarterback Vincent Lopez once.

The Warriors (1-1, 2-3) were in prime position to at least tie it on their final drive of the game but turned it over on downs at RC’s 12-yard line with 12.9 seconds remaining. Sonke stopped Lazs King (15 rushes, 67 yards, TD) a yard shy of the first down on fourth-and-2, securing the hard-earned victory for the Knights.

“It was a team effort,” Alex Sonke said. “We really wanted to stop them and did. We expected that play to come, adjusted to it and I just had to make the tackle from there.”

As for Grant, he averaged 10.5 yards with his 15 carries and had touchdown scampers spanning 30 and 57 yards, but two special-teams kicks in the fourth quarter may have overshadowed the rest.

Sonke actually cramped up on his 57-yard jaunt with 4:49 left in the third quarter, and he wasn’t as effective of a runner for the rest of the contest. He had enough juice left in those legs for special teams, though.

It started with a risky onside kick following Trey Fasani’s 20-yard touchdown toss to 6-9 receiver Thys Van Der Hoek earlier in the fourth quarter. That gave the Knights the lead for good at 42-35, but Grams wanted his team to remain aggressive.

 “We just wanted to take control of the ballgame,” he said. “They were scoring, too, so we had to take control of the ballgame.”

Orestimba was not prepared for Grant Sonke’s onside kick, which was recovered by Dustin Hoekstra.

“We have some big guys who are fast and quick,” Sonke said. “I can trust them, and I know that if I can just get the ball there they’ll get it done for me.”

Four minutes later, Sonke kicked a 25-yard field goal to extend Ripon Christian’s lead to 10 with 5:51 remaining. It turned out to be the deciding score.

Orestimba on the front foot to start the contest, thanks in large part to its dual-threat QB. Lopez served a four-game suspension to start the season and had an electric 2021 debut, finishing 8 of 11 for 117 yards, a touchdown and an interception as well as 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns on carries.

Lopez, a junior, is actually the back-up to sophomore Alex Millan, who is out with a separated shoulder. Receiver Devin Bettencourt has filled in as the emergency quarterback and returned to the role for a spell late in the contest Friday after Lopez hobbled to the sideline with cramps.

Orestimba led 28-14 at halftime and could have been up more comfortably if not for an interception by linebacker Micah De Jong in the end zone.

“We hadn’t seen No. 2 play for them, No. 2 is unbelievable,” Grams said of Lopez. “His speed and his shiftiness gave us some fits. Any time the quarterback can run and has a guy like No. 11 (Jayden Vargas who can go catch the ball, it’s going to give you some fits.”

The tide turned in the third quarter when the Knights scored 21 unanswered points. Fasani hit Van Der Hoek for a 53-yard catch-and-run score, and Ripon Christian was gifted valuable scoring position when a high snap on Orestimba’s punt helped set the Knights up on the Warriors 44. Brady Grondz’s 4-yard touchdown tied it up.

“They made some adjustments, came out physical and scored right away,” Orestimba coach Aaron Souza said. “Then we had the botched punt and it kind of snowballed.”

Vargas finished with six catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. His second TD reception was the result of a 28-yard pass from Bettencourt, closing Orestimba in 45-42 with 3:06 remaining.

The Warriors’ chances for a late comeback improved on the next series, as they brought down Sonke at the Ripon Christian 36 on a fake punt with 2:02 to go.

All that did was make for things more exciting, or nerve-wracking for some, in the end.

“We play hard and we’re relentless in all we do, that’s our team motto this year,” Grant Sonke said. “I’m very proud of these guys.”

Fasani completed 8 of 19 passes for 160 yards and the two touchdowns to Van Der Hoek (two receptions, 73 yards). Grondz (41 yards rushing, 15 receiving) and De Jong (35 yards rushing, TD) also contributed to a Ripon Christian attack that narrowly outgained the visitors from Newman, 435-411.