Ripon Christian has made it look easy up to this point.
The Knights are off to a 4-0 start for just the second time in program history, vanquishing every opponent with a versatile attack and devastating defense. The latest masterpiece was a 42-6 shelling of Waterford in a Southern Athletic League opener and one-sided battle of unbeatens.
Ripon Christian will be better tested soon enough. Its toughest stretch of the regular season starts Friday at Denair, yet another clash between two undefeated teams.
The Knights are hosting three-time defending SAL champion Orestimba next, but they aren’t looking past Denair.
“We get into the teeth of the Southern League pretty quickly,” fifth-year head coach Trey Ozenbaugh said. “I’ve been impressed with Denair since Anthony (Armas) has taken over and the quality of coaching that he brings to the program. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
No one has challenged the upstart Knights yet. They’re averaging 46 points per game and have only given up 27 in all.
Former RC head coach Randy Fasani is back as offensive coordinator, giving opposing defenses fits with his multitude of weapons. He’s doing it with two quarterbacks — Cade Alger (334 yards, seven TDs) and Nolan Lingley (284 yards, three TDs) — who bring different skill sets and have combined for zero interceptions.
Third-year senior Michael Kamps (450 yards, nine TDs; 192 receiving yards, three TDs) led area rushers a year ago and continues to produce as the featured back. Michael Solario (231 yards, 10.5 per carry, TD) and fullback Max Steele (102 yards, three TDs) are also doing damage out of the backfield, while 6-foot-2 Sean McGovern (219 yards, six TDs) has shined in the passing game.
The defense has been just as impressive.
McGovern earned all-league first-team honors as a sophomore defensive back last season and is one of many two-way standouts for the Knights. Senior captain Drew Van Vliet, a 6-4, 260-pound lineman/outside linebacker amassed 13 tackles and 2.5 sacks with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the Waterford win.
Ozenbaugh credits defensive coordinator Eddie Erdelatz and assistants Steve Anastasio and Pat McGovern for getting the most out of the team’s 24-man roster of multi-skilled athletes.
“I really feel that talent-wise, we have more kids this year that would start or get significant playing time at bigger schools,” Ozenbaugh said. “We have some dudes.”
As does Denair, an experienced and hungry squad coming off a 2-8 campaign. The Coyotes’ Wing-T has been on a roll, and they have decisive wins over Millennium and Stone Ridge Christian — two of Ripon Christian’s previous victims.
Denair blasted Le Grand 41-21 in its league opener with Steffin Winston (12 rushes, 131 yards, two TDs), Hunter Musgrave (12-92-2), Dylan De Silva (19-62) and quarterback Elvis Silva (5-6, 102 yards, TD) leading the way.
“They have kids who run the ball well and a physical offensive line,” Ozenbaugh said. “The Wing-T is not something we see often in the Southern League. It’s going to be a fun game, and a real good test for us.”
In other Week 5 action:
Kimball at East Union: The Lancers (0-1 Valley Oak League, 1-4 overall) are in must-win mode after dropping three in a row, and they begin a stretch of three consecutive road games next week.
They’ll look to turn it around against Kimball (0-1, 2-3), which lost to Sierra 49-28 on its homecoming. It won’t be a long trip for first-year Kimball coach Mike Kuhnlenz, a 2006 Manteca High grad who works at East Union as a campus monitor.
East Union has an opportunity to get its pistol/wing offense in gear against a defense that surrenders 39 points per game. The Jaguars have playmakers on offense in QB Mateo Decoite (637 yards, seven TDs; three rushing TDs), running back Louie Pacheco (513 yards, eight TDs) and 6-4, 205-pound receiver Kaleo Ballungay (243 yards, two TDs).
Central Catholic at Sierra: The young pups at Sierra (1-0, 3-2) are making steady improvements, but they’ll face the best of the VOL in the coming weeks.
The Timberwolves’ challenging stretch begins with powerhouse Central Catholic (1-0, 4-1), which held off Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion Manteca 35-28 last week with uncharacteristic sloppy play.
The Raiders have the talent to make up for any mistakes. They’re loaded in the backfield with the likes of 6-2, 200-pound Dawaiian McNeely (444 yards, two TDs) and Kyle Jacklich (444 yards, nine TDs). Promising junior QB Dalton Durossette (439 yards, five TDs) will make his second appearance as the full-time starter.
Riverbank at Ripon: The upstart Indians (1-0, 5-0) have reached a soft spot in their otherwise brutal Trans-Valley League schedule.
Coming off hard-earned victories over Calaveras and Hilmar, they’ll welcome Riverbank (0-1, 2-3) for homecoming on Friday and head to Livingston (0-1, 1-4) next week. Riverbank was throttled 61-3 by Modesto Christian in its TVL opener and was dealt a 58-0 loss to Millennium before that.
Quarterback Ryan Daggett (522 yards, five TDs; 437 rushing yards, seven TDs) has starred offensively, but the surprising defense is a big reason for the Indians’ perfect start.
Pacheco at Lathrop: Lathrop (1-0, 1-3) picked up a confidence-boosting 30-14 win over Ceres in its first-ever Western Athletic Conference contest but will need to be on its game against a championship contender.
Pacheco (1-0, 3-1) has made its case as an early favorite following a dominant 69-6 thrashing of Johansen. The Panthers have also beaten Sierra 36-14, a rival team Lathrop struggled against in a 19-7 defeat. Their only-loss was to large-school opponent Atwater, which is 4-1.