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Ripon’s Delgado, Hernandez, Ilardi land All-TVL awards
Bulletin football 2019
With Nathan Valdez in pass protection, Ripon quarterback Nico Ilardi flings it downfield as running back Danny Hernandez runs his route in the CIF State Division IV-AA Bowl Game against Highland. - photo by GARY JENSEN/
Three Ripon standouts earned top awards in the best small-school league in the state.
Quarterback Nico Ilardi was named All-Trans Valley League Outstanding Offensive Back, left tackle Caleb Delgado received Outstanding Offensive Lineman and versatile safety Danny Hernandez got Outstanding Defensive Back. The trio was among the nine core group of seniors who led the Indians (5-1, 14-1 overall) to a piece of the TVL championship as well as the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V and CIF State Division 4-AA titles.
“We got lot of kids represented and deservedly so,” said Ripon coach Chris Musseman, who shares the Coach of the Year honors with fellow tri-champs Andrew Beam of Escalon (5-1, 14-1) and Frank Marques of Hilmar (5-1, 11-2).
Escalon and Hilmar met in the SJS Division VI final for a second straight year, with Escalon prevailing during its march to the CIF State Division 4-A crown. Hilmar won the Division 6-AA state championship last season.
In the regular season, Ripon lost at Hilmar while ravaged by injuries during the game but routed previously-unbeaten rival Escalon four weeks later.
Escalon had four all-league major award winners in running back Kaden Christensen (Outstanding Offensive Player), defensive tackle David Camacho (Outstanding Defensive Player), edge rusher Jacob Walden (Outstanding Defensive Lineman) and Colton Panero (Outstanding Linebacker). Hilmar's Aidan Azevedo was awarded Outstanding Receiver.
“I still believe Danny should have been MVP on one side of the ball,” Musseman said, injecting his opinion that an all-around MVP — as featured in most other leagues — should be included in the future. “It's hard when you have three league champions. Everyone is understandably going to be biased looking at their own kids.”
Hernandez is one of three Indians to earn all-league spots for both offense and defense. He was the team leader in tackles (84), interceptions (three), rushing (1,233 yards, 12 touchdowns) and receptions (35).
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Delgado was one of just two returning members of the offensive line, and fellow senior Jeremiah Willey joins him on the all-league list. On top of paving the path for a wing-T offense that averaged 193.9 rushing yards per game, Delgado compiled 56 tackles (11.5 for losses) and 7.5 sacks to reserve his place on the All-TVL defense.
“If you go back and do an analysis on our tem, we ran to our left probably 75 percent of the time because (Delgado) was there and he was our best down blocker,” Musseman said.
Troy Brogan rounds out Ripon's two-way all-leaguers, making it as a tight end (21 receptions, 376 yards, seven TDs) and defensive lineman (50 tackles, 13 for losses, 7.0 sacks, three forced fumbles).
Ilardi may have been a multi-position all-league selection as he was in 2018 (defensive back/punter) had it not been for a sprained ACL sustained during the Hilmar game. That forced him to focus mainly on offense for much of the season, though he did see more reps at safety and cornerback deep in the playoffs. Ilardi finished with 2,006 yards and 21 touchdowns on 129-of-200 passing (64.5%) while only throwing three interceptions. He also rushed for seven touchdowns.
“He was the go-to leader,” Musseman said. “When things weren't going right, I'd go to Nico and say, 'Get these guys together and run the offense.' It's rare to have a kid who is able to that.”
Outside linebacker Grant Wiebe (49 tackles, 5.5 sacks) is another second-time all-league selection for Ripon. Like Ilardi, he suffered an injury (shoulder) in the Hilmar game. Inside linebacker Brandon Rainer (40 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles) made all-league for defense and honorable mention for offense.
Other Indians earning honorable mention: kicker/lineman Nathan Valdez, receiver Dorian Dougherty, cornerback Austin Bonilla, cornerback Mason Knight and Willey at defensive line.