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Ripon battles Escalon with playoff bid on line
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Ripon can forget about that over-the-top pre-league schedule that led to its 1-4 start.

Last week’s 44-30 loss to Trans-Valley League frontrunner Modesto Christian may as well be ancient history. That 3-5 record? Doesn’t matter.

The Indians (2-1 TVL, 3-5 overall), believe it or not, still control their postseason destiny and aren’t even out of the running for the TVL title. But if they are to advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for a fourth straight year, they must win their final two regular-season contests for an automatic berth.

Win and they’re in. If only it were that simple.

The first order of business is Friday’s trip to Escalon (3-0, 6-2). This traditional rivalry had long been dominated by the Cougars until Ripon won the last two.

Early mistakes, which included lost fumbles on three straight possessions, led to Ripon’s loss a week ago. It can’t afford to be as sloppy against Escalon, which wears down defenses with its punishing Wing-T offense. Escalon has a physical 1-2 backfield punch in Wesley Dick (795 yards, 14 TDs) and Hunter Calton (536 yards, 2 TDs).

Ripon’s final regular-season opponent is no pushover either. Hughson (1-2, 5-3) was competitive against Modesto Christian in a 16-8 loss and is also vying for a postseason bid. The Indians can seize a share of the TVL title by winning out but would need Escalon to top MC in Week 10.

Southern League

Mariposa (5-0, 6-2) at

Ripon Christian (3-2, 6-2)

The Bears are riding a five-game winning streak and a whole lot of momentum after scoring 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to upend Gustine. They are a win away from setting up a Week-10 championship against traditional Le Grand, which gets 2-6 Denair on Friday.

While a league title is likely out of reach for Ripon Christian it still has much to play for. Beating Mariposa would help its chances of taking second in league, earning an automatic bid and a favorable seed for the postseason.

The Knights are coming off a 31-0 drubbing of Denair, but their swarming defense will be better tested Friday against a balanced attack led by QB Aaron Lema (1,799 yards, 17 TDs, 4 picks). His favorite target, 6-foot-3 Jadin Battles, leads the section with 72 receptions (good for No. 2 in the state, according to MaxPreps) and had 955 yards and seven touchdowns. Running back Kamare Bailey (857 rushing yards, 346 receiving, 19 TDs) is a big-play threat any time he touches the ball. Bailey is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry.