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Indians crush Riverbank to secure playoff spot
RIPON – Every team strives to get all three of its major components firing on the same page: offense, defense and special teams.

That’s exactly what the Ripon Indians (7-2, 3-1) did Friday in demolishing the Riverbank Bruins 63-0 to secure a Trans Valley League playoff slot and swing the pendulum far into its favor heading to the biggest game of its season.

With a 55-yard punt return by Jared Macedo to put the Indians on the board early, the team would continue to pour on the points through a combination of strong offense, stingy defense, and creative special teams play. Only four of their touchdowns came from offensive plays.

“We’ve talked all year about how this is a team that doesn’t have any one single standout player but an entire team that works together to get things done,” said Ripon head coach Chris Johnson. “That’s what we saw tonight, and hitting that stride at this point in the season is huge for us.”

After mounting a 28-0 lead prior to the half, Johnson quickly turned to his bench to give everybody a chance to get into the game – a move that typically results in allowing the other team a chance to get on the board.

But when Louie Mejia took the opening kickoff of the second half 75-yards to the end zone, it was clear that the Indians were far from done putting up points on the board.

Riverbank (2-7, 0-4) was unable to get anything solid going on offense. Ripon’s stingy defense continued to pound away on the Bruin running attack causing fumbles and putting enough pressure on quarterback Shane Gaynor to force him into making bad throws – leading to two second-half interceptions as well as three fumbles that the Indians recovered.

And instead of just falling on the ball, Ripon would return two of those fumbles for touchdowns that quickly sealed the fate of the Bruins.

“We’re always looking to see everything working in unison, and that’s exactly what we saw happen tonight,” said Ripon quarterback Alex Gustin. “We clinched a playoff spot tonight, and we’re getting ready to head into the biggest game of our season next week.

“To have that complete game tonight is very important, and it shows how hungry we are as a team.”

It was Jaylen Smith that first scooped up a loose ball on a botched Riverbank fumble that he returned for a touchdown with 2:09 left to play in the third quarter. A minute later Kody Wengel also scooped up a loose ball and found the end-zone.

The game’s final score would come after Sam Pryor blocked a punt and managed to come up with the loose ball himself and dash for the end-zone to give the Indians a 63-0 lead with just over five minutes left to play.

Seeing that sort of a performance from his squad for the entire 48 minutes was something that Johnson says he was waiting all year to see. It couldn’t have come at a better time, making the playoff-clinching win that much better.

With Modesto Christian downing previously unbeaten Escalon Friday night 21-16, the Indians will have a chance to improve their post-season seed pending the outcome of next week’s matchup. Ripon will host the Cougars next Friday at Stouffer Field.

“I think that if you’re going to play with the best you’ve got to be solid in every category,” said Johnson. “We had a lot of different guys step up in different roles and get that done for us tonight, and that’s really what has made this special this year.

“Tonight, we had all of those things going for us, and that’s what we need going into next week.”