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Indians work to build off successful 2012 season
Ripons Michael Ysit, right, helps pour on the pressure as the Pacheco QB pitches the ball backwards for a turnover during an inside-run scrimmage at West Highs full-contact camp in Tracy. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

TRACY — Coming off their most successful season under Ripon High head coach Chris Johnson, the Indians remain motivated in preparation for the 2012 season.

He guided the team to an 8-3 finish and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoff berth in his ninth year.

 “It’s a motivating thing in the sense that they feel that there is unfinished business,” Johnson said during the West High camp on July 11. “We had a good year, but we felt like it ended a little early.

“They have aspirations. The last few years it’s been about competing in the (Trans-Valley League), now there’s an air about these kids. Now it’s ‘Let’s go for a TVL title and take this as far as we can.’

“It’s about making that next step from being a good program to being one of the great programs. That’s what we’re after now.”

They got after it during their offseason program that continues with conditioning and weightlifting during the SJS’ Dead Period, which ends Aug. 6.

Ripon participated in a passing tournament at Patterson High as well as the six-team full-contact camp hosted by West High. In Patterson, returning QB Kyle Wengel led the team to a runner-up finish, losing to Manteca in the championship round.

“That’s not bad for a wing-T team,” Johnson joked. “Other than that, it has just been a lot of conditioning and working out. That’s been our main focus over the summer, to get them physically prepared for the season. Just knocking off the rust and getting back to what we do.”

The team also spent time implementing a new defense, going from an even front to an odd. It was put to use at the West camp, where the Indians went toe to toe with the likes of Manteca, Lathrop, Pacheco, Franklin and West.

They will see Lathrop again Sept. 14 for a Week 3 non-league contest. It is the first meeting between the two small-town schools separated by Manteca. Lathrop athletic director Bill Slikker, a Ripon High grad, played a part in getting this game together.

“He and I are friends, so there’s the connection there,” Johnson said. “They were looking to get out of their game with Escalon and it just worked out because we both needed a game. It’s a close travel, the competition will be good and we’ll bring a gate for them so it’s kind of a win-win situation.”

Ripon also replaces Argonaut with Bret Harte in its non-league schedule, while Linden and rival Ripon Christian remain.