LODI – Normally, the team that maintains its composure is the one that wins the big game. Such was not the case Saturday.
Despite scoring the game’s final 14 points while watching Bradshaw Christian implode from within, Ripon Christian could not convert a late-game fumble recovery into a game-tying drive and lost 35-28 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship game at the Grape Bowl.
With 6:13 left in the game and the Pride (10-2) with the ball and leading 35-28, Will Kamps lit up the Bradshaw Christian ball carrier, forcing a fumble for Jake Schollenberg to recover and give the Knights (10-3) the ball near midfield. Ripon Christian could not manage a first down, turning the ball back over to the Pride to run out the clock and get the win.
Although there was 4:16 remaining when Bradshaw Christian got the ball back that last time, as was the case most of the game Ripon Christian could not get the big stop when it needed to.
“We made a few too many mistakes that allowed them to continue their drives,” Knights coach Randy Fasani said. “Bradshaw Christian soaks up the time when you make those mistakes. We barely got the ball in the first half.”
On the final Ripon Christian scoring drive capped by an Andrew Brown 11-yard touchdown run with 7:01 left in the game, the Pride frustration of Brown cutting loose in the second half began to show through with a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on one play and pushing and shoving within the team huddle.
Brown – who set the SJS single-season rushing record of 2,781 yards this year – had 155 yards on 26 carries with three touchdown runs and one scoring reception – had only 48 rushing yards in the first half. It turns out that Brown sustained a knee injury in the previous game and Fasani had to see how Brown would react under game conditions.
“I was feeling him out in the first half to see how bad his MCL sprain was,” Fasani said. “You could tell that it was affecting him when he couldn’t explode and wasn’t as fast as normal, but he was productive.”
One of Brown’s more productive plays came as time expired in the first half. Bradshaw Christian took a 28-7 lead with 36 seconds left in the second period and then attempted on onside kick which did not got 10 yards, giving the Knights excellent field position. Brown gained 48 yards on two receptions during the ensuing four-play drive, scoring on a 20-yard screen pass as time expired to draw Ripon Christian within 28-14.
“It was an awesome game,” Brown said. “There was good competition on the other side of the ball. They came out with the win but I really enjoyed the game.
“We had the momentum at the end but we just didn’t capitalize.”
Brown’s 155-yard rushing effort was good for game-leading honors and he had six receptions for 47 yards. Teammate Billy Marr was 10 of 19 passing for 119 yards with the screen-pass touchdown to Brown.
Ethan McMurray led the Knights with 12 tackles. Keegan Rivera added 10 stops, David Henderson nine and Schollenberg and Eric Broker five each.