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WEEK 4 PREVIEW: League play kicks off
Ripon, Lathrop start with unbeaten opponents
McClatchy-Ripon football
Ripon’s Xzavier Clark races away from McClatchy linebacker Jonathan Godbout. - photo by SEAN KAHLER

The league schedule kicks off this week for three local teams.

Ripon begins Trans-Valley League play against resurgent Modesto Christian, Ripon Christian hosts Denair to start Southern Athletic League action and Lathrop gets unbeaten Ceres on the road for its Western Athletic Conference opener.

East Union is on its bye week and closes non-league play next week against Lincoln of Stockton. Manteca’s schedule remains in flux after its Week 4 opponent, Damonte Ranch of Reno, canceled their Saturday date because of concerns over air quality from the Mosquito Fire.

Ripon (2-2) is fresh off two straight get-right victories after losses to East Union and Sonora to start the season. The Indians have responded with blowouts of McClatchy and Calaveras, but they’re on a short week after trouncing Calaveras 49-12 on Monday. The game in San Andreas was postponed from last Friday to Monday because of poor air conditions.

Modesto Christian (4-0) is gaining confidence with every win under third-year coach Jerry Grisham, who was 2-16 in his first two seasons. Ripon, however, represents the first test for the Crusaders, whose previous four opponents combine for a 1-12 record. Their most competitive game was a 15-14 overtime win over winless El Capitan on Sept. 2.

Modesto Christian is led by 6-foot-6, 270-pound lineman Manasse Itete, who holds offers from Cal, Florida State, Nevada, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, USC and Vanderbilt.

Raymond Corral Jr. orchestrates the offense as its dual-threat quarterback, though sophomore Ross Widemon (9 of 14, 155 yards, two TDs) was featured heavily behind center in MC’s 28-6 conquest of Delta Charter. Corral has completed 55.8% of his passes for 736 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing for 416 yards (8.9 per carry) and three scores.

Jeremiah Bernard (30 receptions, 516 yards, eight TDs) is statistically one of the top receivers in the Sac-Joaquin Section, so far. Linebacker Gabe Pires heads the defense with 26 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles.

Here’s a look at other Week 4 contests in the area:


Lathrop (1-2) at Ceres (3-0): Both teams were idle last week, but Ceres comes into the WAC opener riding more momentum.

The Bulldogs held off Central Valley 21-20 on Sept. 2, snapping a seven-game losing streak to their cross-town rival. Meanwhile, Lathrop lost to its rival, Weston Ranch, 58-34.

Ceres has veteran experience with the likes of third-year starting QB Landyn Hudson (570 yards, seven TDs, INT) leading the way. He’s supported by senior running back Tarrell Lee-Gill (381 total yards, seven TDs) and senior receiver Ricky Stanley (263 yards, two TDs).

Defensively, Ceres has forced eight turnovers.

Denair (1-2) at Ripon Christian (2-1): Denair comes in battle tested with losses to undefeated Modesto Christian and George Washington of San Francisco, a school with about four times the enrollment of its own. The Coyotes’ lone win is over Riverbank, 45-0.

Ripon Christian is no stranger to big-time competition having opened its campaign with a 42-14 loss to state finalist Central Valley Christian. The Knights have since rebounded with one-sided wins over Cloverdale and Calaveras.

It appears to be a wide-open race in the SAL, where three teams — Le Grand, Mariposa and Delhi — are 3-0 with three others sitting at 2-1. Ripon Christian heads to 2-1 Orestimba next for a matchup that almost always has title implications.


Modesto (2-2) at Sierra (0-3): The Timberwolves are going after their first win of the season on homecoming night.

They’ll have to slow down the Panthers’ potent combination of quarterback Eli McCabe and Heston Blom, the SJS leaders in passing and receiving yards, respectively. McCabe, in his third year starting behind center, has thrown for 1,036 yards and 13 touchdowns against one interception. The 6-1 Blom has 26 catches for 471 yards and nine TDs, already surpassing his totals in category from last season.

Both teams have lost to Stagg, which held off Modesto 47-40 after leading 40-14 through three quarters. Sierra lost to the Delta Kings 41-21 the week prior.

Modesto’s defense was torched by Stagg running back Herman Mitchell, who went off for 374 yards and four touchdowns. The Panthers were then pasted by Patterson 76-27, giving up 482 rushing yards in the process.