HUGHSON — By the time Ripon realized that a win would have given it a share of first place in the Trans-Valley League, its game at Hughson was already well in hand.
That didn’t stop the Indians from making a statement in a 53-7 trouncing that not only gave them a slice of the league lead, but likely pushed them into the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs the week before the regular-season finale against Hilmar.
Ripon (3-1 TVL, 6-3 overall) didn’t run up the score against Hughson, using a single back who touched the ball nine times before finding the end zone on its final touchdown drive, but head coach Chris Musseman did praise his players for never taking the foot off of the gas.
“I always felt like we were the best team in the TVL, and right now we’re focusing on coming out and finishing the season strong,” Musseman said.
“I told our guys that our goal was to stay focused and play four complete quarters of football and that’s exactly what we did tonight, and I definitely think that everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do and we’re firing on all cylinders.”
While the Indians were able to establish a ground attack on the muddy field, it was the connection between Ryan Daggett and Michael Winters that proved to be the winning combination. Winters hauled in six passes – three of them for touchdowns – and amassed 165 yards to complement his early five-yard touchdown run.
Daggett completed nine of his 15 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
“We were flowing well tonight,” Daggett said. “We honed things in and focused some more of the basic things that we knew we could do well.
“We’re playing hard because we want that first playoff game at home, and everybody is focusing on that right now.”
While Ripon’s offense had no problems putting points on the board, it was their defense that prevented Hughson from finding any sort of rhythm.
Winters directly contributed to one of Ripon’s offensive touchdowns by intercepting a pass deep in Hughson territory, setting up a score four plays later. And on the Huskies’ ensuing drive, a fumble behind the line of scrimmage was pounced on Owen Gollinger, leading to a 22-yard field goal.
With Escalon’s surprising 37-14 victory over Modesto Christian, which beat Ripon 42-41 in the second week of the TVL season, the Indians are locked in a three-way tie for first place and will have a chance to share a piece of the title.
“You don’t want to end up with one of the lower seeds in the playoff bracket, you want to put yourself into a position to win,” Musseman said.