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WEEK 5 PREVIEW: Ripon gets 1st TVL test in 5-0 Hilmar
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Ripon’s Emiliano Acosta (59), Colin Speed (54) and Caleb Johnston (24) run down Modesto Christian ball carrier Gabe Pires (24) last Friday at Roy Blakeley Field. - photo by GARY JENSEN/


Friday’s games

Sierra at East Union

Weston Ranch at Central Catholic

Pacheco at Lathrop

Hilmar at Ripon

Orestimba at Ripon Christian


Bye: Manteca

Maple Avenue will be rockin’ Friday night with neighboring Ripon and Ripon Christian hosting big league games simultaneously.

Ripon (1-0, 3-2 overall) welcomes undefeated Hilmar (1-0, 5-0) in a battle between 2019 Trans-Valley League co-champions. Meanwhile, Ripon Christian clashes with Orestimba, the Knights’ chief nemesis in the Southern Athletic League in recent years.

The TVL garnered much of the attention last week when Hilmar and Escalon, the third member of the 2019 title triumvirate, came back to squeak by Livingston and Hughson, respectively. Ripon had the easiest of the league openers, outclassing Modesto Christian 56-12 for its third straight win. Four of the Indians’ next five opponents won’t be pushovers.

“There are five teams that are all pretty competitive in the league,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said. “It’s kind of like we’re running the gauntlet. We’re going to have a tough one every week.”

Ripon and Hilmar have not faced off since 2019, as the Yellowjackets joined a makeshift league consisting of Merced County schools for the spring season. The Indians lost the last meeting 38-27, succumbing to injuries to multiple key players. It turned out to be their only loss of 2019, as they went on to capture Sac-Joaquin Section Division V and California Interscholastic Federation Division IV-AA state championships.

Ripon has had play through injuries, COVID absences and scheduling changes so far this season. Musseman said he’ll be without 6-foot-7, 230-pound wide receiver/defensive lineman Bronson Burrow this week. Burrow has not yet been cleared to return from a concussion sustained against Calaveras two weeks ago.

“He’s a huge piece for us, and it’s going to be a tougher road without him both sides of the ball,” Musseman said.

Hilmar has its own version of Burrow in Derek Taylor, who also stands 6-7. He caught three passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns in the Yellowjackets’ 28-24 win over visiting Livingston. His nine receiving touchdowns for the season is the most in the SJS, according to MaxPreps, and he’s No. 8 with 429 yards.

Camron Monk (51.2%, 835 yards, 12 TDs, three INTs) is at the center of Hilmar’s pistol offense and is joined by speedy Luis Vargas (300 yards, 10.0 per carry, three TDs) and Brock Perry (222 yards, 6.3 per carry, two TDs) in the backfield.

“Very explosive,” Musseman said of Hilmar’s arsenal of offensive weapons. “They have some speed in the backfield and that No. 23 (Taylor) isn’t just big, he’s also fast. He’s legit and is a tough matchup for anybody. It’s going to be hard for us because the passing game is an area where we’ve struggled on offense and defense.”

As for his team, Musseman believes it has come a long way since dropping back-to-back to start the season. The Indians rallied from the early adversity to stun Center 34-22 on the road, kick starting their current winning streak.

“We learned some valuable lessons, not only as players but as coaches,” Musseman said. “We needed to find our identity because this is a much different team from years past. We had to modify some things and learn how to use certain guys, so it took us a little longer to get into a groove. Hopefully, the guys will fight hard and we’ll see if we can get it done. It’s going to be a tough one against Hilmar, because we are still learning how to win.”

Here is a look at other Week 5 contests:


Sierra (0-5) at East Union (3-2): These intra-city rivals want to bounce back from lopsided losses to Valley Oak League powerhouses — Sierra received a 65-0 thumping from Manteca on its homecoming night, while the Lancers were crushed on Oakdale’s homecoming, 59-13.

East Union celebrates its homecoming this week and looks to reverse a one-sided trend in this rivalry. Sierra leads the all-time series 19-6 and has claimed 15 of the last 16 meetings with the Lancers, who won 41-17 in 2017.

Sierra has struggled with injuries and COVID cases all season. In five games, the Timberwolves have started five different offensive lines. One bright spot has been the emergence of sophomore running back Anthony Grady.

East Union counters with one of the top dual-threat QBs in the Section in Luke Weaver (1,360 passing yards, 10 rushing TDs).


Pacheco (2-2) at Lathrop (3-1): Two run-based offenses will slug it out at Bennie Gatto Field, where Lathrop is celebrating homecoming.

Winners of three straight, the Spartans passed their first test in Western Athletic Conference play, racing away from Ceres 23-6 at home while establishing themselves as a contender. Grace Davis (4-0), battle-tested Los Banos (1-3) and Pacheco are also 1-0 in the WAC. Pacheco defeated Johansen 14-7 last week.

The Panthers’ other win was earned at Sierra, 16-2.

Pacheco’s double-wing attack averages just 10 points and 190 yards. Lathrop and its Wing-T produces 25 points and 234.5 yards per game. Neither team has completed a touchdown pass.


Orestimba (2-2) at Ripon Christian (3-1): It’s a must-win for Orestimba’s title hopes after coming up short at Le Grand, 14-12.

Ripon Christian had what was essentially a league bye last week after Denair was forced to back out because of rising COVID-19 cases on campus. The Knights instead played Riverbank, rolling to a 53-0 win.

Orestimba may be the most battle-tested team in the SAL. The Warriors opened their season with a 12-6 overtime win at Rio Vista and edged out Los Banos, 20-19. Their other loss came against TVL contender Hughson, 37-6.

Sophomore Alex Millan started the season at quarterback for Orestimba but went down with a separated shoulder in the Los Banos game. Receiver Devin Bettencourt has stepped into the role. Regardless of who is behind center, Jayden Vargas is the No. 1 target with 378 yards and four touchdowns.


Weston Ranch (1-4) at Central Catholic (3-1): The going gets tougher for the Ranch, coming off a 54-6 setback at Kimball.

Now, the Cougars head to Central Catholic to face a VOL heavyweight eager to atone for its first loss of the season. The Raiders dropped a 28-21 decision against San Jose power Bellarmine Prep in their VOL bye.

Aiden Taylor (477 yards, 10 TDs) spearheads Central’s physical run game, while sophomore Manteca resident Tyler Wentworth and receiver Nolan Croasdale lead the air attack.