RIPON – This fall, the Ripon Christian football is playing for keeps.
The Knights earned a share of the Southern League title last fall and reached the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for a second consecutive season, but there’s a funny thing about success.
It’s never enough.
With a roster rich with talent and potential, former NFL quarterback and first-year head coach Randy Fasani believes his program can take the next step. Fasani was the offensive coordinator the last two seasons, helping Ripon Christian establish itself as a bona fide player in the always-tough Southern League and Division IV playoff bracket.
“Last year we shared the Southern League title, and we don’t want to share it this year,” Fasani said. “We want to be outright champs and win the section championship. We feel like we have the talent and the determination to make it to the section championship game.”
Ripon Christian went 9-3 and 6-1 in league play in 2012, and graduated a few key players in quarterback Danny Vos and wide receiver/defensive back Brandon Dotinga.
However, the Knights return a solid nucleus, including running back/free safety Andrew Brown, two-way lineman Eric Broker and linebacker/guard David Henderson.
Junior quarterback Billy Marr will replace Vos, and according to Brown, has looked promising during the Knights’ 7-on-7 passing league workouts.
“We have a pretty good squad this year,” said Brown, who accumulated more than 2,700 all-purpose yards during his junior season. “Even though we lost Vos, Billy has been throwing really well in 7-on-7s.”
Ripon Christian has stayed busy this summer.
Twice it locked horns with Riverbank in passing-league style, two-hand touch football games. The Knights also competed in a full-contact camp hosted by Sonora High on July 18.
“We have a new quarterback and he’s felt comfortable in the leadership role during summer activities,” said Fasani, who played for Stanford University and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2002. “I’m excited to see him perform in a live atmosphere. (He got) a little taste of that at camp (July 18) going against Central Catholic in Sonora.”
Fasani isn’t the program’s only new acquitistion. The Knights hired on-campus instructor Justin Unruh as their strength and conditioning coach. Fasani said Unruh has added a key element to the Knights’ summer routine.
“Justin has done a great job in the weight room getting these guys motivated and coming in on a consistent basis,” Fasani said. “We organized practices during May that were very successful, so that was a good sign.
“We can officially start (practicing) on Aug. 12, and we’re looking forward to two days of conditioning without pads on.”
Ripon Christian hasn’t changed its preseason schedule. The Knights still have matchups against Jim Elliot Christian and Big Valley Christian, and the ever-popular city duel with Ripon on Sept. 13. Ripon Christian opens Southern League play at Mariposa on Sept. 27.
“We’re trying to develop a tradition here of winning and doing it the right way,” Fasani concluded. “That’s with God first, family second and then football after that. We’re trying to teach these kids life principles on and off the field.”