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WEEK 5 PREVIEW: Going south
Ripon, RC hitting road for pivotal league games
Calaveras-Ripon Christian football
Ripon Christian running back Grant Sonke leaves Calaveras’ Scott Beadles in the dust on his way to a 40-yard gain in a non-league game on Sept. 2. GARY JENSEN/

Ripon and Ripon Christian are riding three-game winning streaks heading into their first true tests in league play this Friday.

Ripon (3-2) travels to Hilmar (2-3), a talented team with a deceiving record. Meanwhile, the Knights (3-1) charge into Newman to square off with Orestimba (3-1) in a matchup that almost always comes down to the wire.

Hilmar is as battle-hardened as they come in the Trans-Valley League, with one-score losses to Patterson, Sonora and Salinas powerhouse Palma. Sonora blew out Ripon 42-10 the week before holding off Hilmar, 28-20.

Wide receiver Derek Taylor stars for the Yellowjackets. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Division I prospect has earned a three-star rating from 247Sports and an offer from UMass. He is statistically one of the top receivers in the Sac-Joaquin Section with 17 catches, 432 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor also plays defensive end (31 tackles, interception, fumble recovery).

Hilmar is without senior quarterback Hudson Azevedo (32 of 65, 529 yards, three TDs, four picks). He is out for another month with a shoulder injury that was discovered in the week leading up to the 7-6 loss at Palma. Sophomore Caden Bailey, promoted from the JV, has performed admirably in his place, showing his dual-threat ability. He has completed 11 of 18 passes for 147 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while rushing for 159 yards and three scores.

Luis Vargas is the Yellowjackets’ leading rusher with 595 yards (7.3 per carry) and five TDs.

Hilmar kicked off the TVL schedule last week with a 35-0 rout of Livingston, while Ripon crushed previously-undefeated Modesto Christian, 54-19. The Indians have won three of the last four against Hilmar, but each victory was decided by six or less points.

Although the Ripon Christian-Orestimba doesn’t quite have the history of Ripon-Hilmar, the two Southern Athletic League rivals have developed quite the rivalry in the last seven years. Ripon Christian has three straight wins over Orestimba and holds a 4-3 all-time series lead.

Orestimba ground out a 21-14 home win over previously-unbeaten Le Grand in the SAL opener. The Warriors’ lone loss is to Hughson, 41-28, which looks even better after the Huskies stunned reigning TVL and SJS Division V champion Escalon last week, 29-14.

Second-year junior quarterback Alex Millan (34 of 60, 562 yards, 12 TDs, two INTs) leads Orestimba’s balanced attack and is protected by big-bodied linemen such as 6-0, 310-pound Matt Travao and 6-2, 265-pound Salvador Moreno.

Drew Felber (nine receptions, 223 yards, four TDs) has been Millan’s top target, so far, and 5-11, 205-pound Kai Brazil (340 yards, three TDs) has handled the bulk of the rushing duties. Brazil also plays linebacker and leads the defense with 31 tackles.

Ripon Christian is on a roll following its 42-14 season-opening defeat to state finalist Central Valley Christian of Visalia. The Knights’ third straight win came against Denair in their SAL opener, 49-7. Here’s a look at other Week 5 games for area teams:


Lincoln (2-2) at East Union (3-1): Quarterback Dylan Lee and the Lancers’ spread offense have found their groove, scoring 108 points in their last two games — both victories.

Coming off their bye, they’re faced with one final challenge ahead of the Valley Oak League gauntlet. Lincoln of Stockton visits Dino Cunial Field on East Union’s homecoming Friday. The Trojans also won their last two, blowing out Antelope and Buhach Colony after competitive losses to Downey and Kimball. Downey downed Lincoln 42-35 and blasted East Union 56-6 the following week.

Spearheading the Trojans is three-star prospect Kenyon Nelson, a 6-1, 215-pound dual-threat quarterback. He holds offers from Army, Colorado State and Tennessee.


Sierra (1-3) at Golden Valley (4-0): This matchup was originally set for Sept. 2, but Sierra requested a postponement after it was hit with a COVID-19 outbreak.

Golden Valley started Central California Conference last week, drubbing Buhach Colony 48-23 behind quarterback Eleazar Garza’s 103 yards and one touchdown passing along with 218 rushing yards and two TDs. Running back Jahkylle Smith added 206 yards and four scores.

Smith has 751 yards and 10 TDs on the season and has an offer from Bellarmine. Linebacker Josiah Gonzalez-Martinez heads the defense with 41 tackles, eight for losses and two sacks.

Sierra is fresh off a confidence-boosting 59-27 win over Modesto. Junior running back Anthony Grady tied a program record with seven touchdowns.


Lathrop (2-2) at Pacheco (2-2): It’s a duel between two run-heavy attacks.

Lathrop and its Wing-T outlasted previously-unbeaten Ceres 19-16 in a Western Athletic Conference opener last week. Meanwhile, Pacheco pounded winless Pacheco, 16-6.

The Panthers of Los Banos have leaned on 5-10, 185-pound running back Abel Bravo, who has rambled for 697 yards and six touchdowns on 98 carries.