RIPON – With a punishing running style and deceptive speed, Michael Ysit plays with the destructive force of a bowling ball.
Through three weeks, his scorecard reads as such: Quick strike after quick strike.
The Ripon High senior is averaging more than 21 yards per carry and nearly 32 yards per catch, and ranks among the area leaders in rushing, receiving and scoring.
He is a big play waiting to happen.
And yet he remains the breakout star of 2013 no one seems to be talking about.
Except maybe Lathrop High coach Steven Wichman, whose task this week is to devise a game plan to ground yet another explosive wingback.
Lathrop visits Ripon on Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Last week, Capital Christian wingback Justice Shelton-Mosley had 145 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-12 victory over the Spartans.
Ysit isn’t the same type of runner as Shelton-Mosley, a highly-touted junior prospect whose speed and juke moves created the separation.
Still, Wichman believes Ysit – a built-for-contact back – will be no easier to slow down, much less tackle.
“We’re going to have to swarm the football with him. We’re not going to be able to rely on one individual to always make the tackle,” said Wichman, his team now 0-2 despite impressive stretches against Liberty Ranch and Capital Christian.
“We’ll have to put hats on the ball with him because he is a hard-nosed runner.”
Ripon sails into the game with a favorable wind at its back.
The Indians are 3-0 with shutout victories over Bret Harte and Linden and a 56-26 triumph over Ripon Christian.
In those wins, Ysit has elevated his game, graduating from a bit player in 2012 to a full-fledged boss this fall. He leads the area in rushing with 493 yards and seven touchdowns, yet among the top-9 rushers he has the third fewest carries with 23.
He also has 126 yards on just four catches, two of which have gone for touchdowns.
Do the math.
On 27 total touches, Ysit has scored nine times – another statistic second to none among The Bulletin’s seven high schools.
Ripon Christian’s Andrew Brown is second with eight touchdowns and Manteca High’s Alex Laurel has seven.
“(Ysit) is a guy that has flown under the radar for awhile now,” Ripon coach Chris Johnson said. “The kid has an extremely strong work ethic and a great head for the game. He’s a very intelligent guy. He had a football sense; he gets the game and knows where to be.”
Translation: Ysit fits perfectly in an offensive philosophy that believes in sharing the wealth.
Quarterback Nick Price has thrown for 343 yards, connecting with four different receivers. Bradley Clark is his top target with eight catches for 117 yards and a team-high three TDs.
Ten different Indians have toted the ball this fall and six have 10 or more carries.
Johnson anticipated Ysit would have this kind of start, but believes his to-the-house explosiveness is due to the balance and mystery of Ripon’s offense.
It’s hard to game plan for a player, Johnson intimated, especially when you don’t know when or where he’ll touch the ball.
“We’re going to do what we do. We’re going to run our system,” Johnson said. “That’s part of what our philosophy is – we’ll spread the ball around and make teams cover the whole field. We’re not going to feature just one guy. That’s not how we’ve built our system here.”
The key for Lathrop will be to sustain long scoring drives, keeping Ripon’s high-powered offense on the sideline, and to win third- and fourth-down battles defensively.
To this point, the Spartans have struggled mightily in both departments.
“If we want to win this game, we’re going to have to be efficient with the football and capitalize on defense and third-down situations,” Wichman said. “We’ve been good enough to put teams in third-and-long and push them to fourth down, but at times we’ve let down.”
Defensively, the onus falls on captain Josh Elliott and a talented group of linebackers.
Elliott is the voice of the defense. He’ll be joined by Hawaii Leaf a’Teo, Kevin Rainey and Chance Wells.
Mason Romo sat out last week’s game with a shoulder injury, but will be back in action Friday evening.
Wichman will rotate his ’backers to keep them fresh.
“It starts with the linebackers. They’re the guys that get everything communicated. They need to know the game plan like the back of their hands that way they can us in the right positions,” he said. “It’s about recognizing formations, recognizing trends, recognizing who is in the backfield.”