RIPON – After an explosive defensive Ripon Christian start left the visiting Orestimba Wildcats wearing roller-skates and its fleet-footed gunslinger struggling to breathe, the Southern League opener at Stouffer Field Friday night looked like an exercise in futility.
Orestimba would try to move the ball, and they’d get swarmed.
Then Ripon Christian would score.
So it was only fitting that 47 minutes later, the fleet-of-foot Joe Sheldon finally having found all the air he needed to bring the Wildcats roaring back in the fourth quarter, that another, unsung hero would emerge from the pile to help ice what was the biggest play in the game.
Meet Kevin Kramer – all 5 feet, 10 inches of him. As Orestimba prepared to mount what would have been a 47-second game-winning drive, Kramer broke through the Orestimba line and wrapped his arms around the shifty back. It might not have been as flashy as the 62-yard touchdown he had to start the game, but the impact was far more significant – with no timeouts left it effectively killed the comeback and gave Ripon Christian a 21-20 victory.
It also set them at 4-0 for the first time in school history.
“We knew that we needed big stop right there and they have an excellent quarterback that can get away from you,” Kramer said. “Our defense came together and we executed when we need to because something like this takes a whole team effort – these are my brothers I’m out here with.”
The Knights had no problem keeping Sheldon under wraps to start the game. He was sacked four times in the first quarter alone, and the only two passes that he was able to get off were woefully incomplete.
But Orestimba keyed in on Ripon’s key offensive weapon – Brian Sytsma – and kept him wrapped up in a similar fashion.
That’s when Kramer got the call to break the spell and did so with a 62-yard flash of brilliance that proved to be much more than just in the pan. For the remainder of the game Sytsma would get yardage in small clumps, but Kramer kept busting forward – lowering his shoulder and getting extra yardage to keep the clock running and the chains moving.
He didn’t end up with the bulk of the carries, but as head coach Trey Ozenbaugh pointed out, he didn’t need to.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for Kevin – he’s one of our leaders in the weight room and he’s always the guys who’s out there working hard and doing it right,” Ozenbaugh said. “They keyed on Brian so we knew that were going to be able to rely on Kevin and he played well for us tonight. I think that you’ll find that in our kids.
“I tell our guys that I’d take 20 of them over any other team out there because they’re coachable and they’re willing to listen and they’re willing to work. And tonight all of that was enough for a win.”