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Ripon remains wary of dangerous Crusaders
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Ripon head coach Chris Johnson still regards Modesto Christian as a championship contender.

Never mind the Crusaders’ shocking Week 4 loss to Hilmar, which visited the Salida campus and handled the hosts by a 30-0 margin.

Johnson has his Indians, who are coming off their own impressive victory to kick off the Trans-Valley League schedule, on guard against a letdown tonight when they host Modesto Christian (0-1, 2-3 overall).

Ripon puts its 19-game regular-season win streak, perfect 5-0 start and 2012 league championship on the line, and it doesn’t get any easier in the coming weeks. The Indians clearly have the most rigid start to league having to face Escalon, Modesto Christian, Hughson and Hilmar in succession. Those final two are also undefeated and get to host the Indians.

Ripon hammered traditional rival Escalon 35-3 last week.

“It was nice to open up league play with a big win over a great program, but that is over now,” Johnson said. “Our kids understand that in our league you have to prepare to play your best every week because just about anyone is capable of knocking off anyone else on any given Friday.”

Even Modesto Christian.

The Indians have prepared for MC’s best — the version that blasted Mother Lode League favorite Calaveras 51-15 and blanked East Union 45-0 on back-to-back weeks. Hilmar knocked that train off the track a week ago, limiting the usually-potent Crusaders to 140 yards of offense. The last TVL team to shut out MC was Ripon, which rolled 52-0 in one of its defining moments of 2012.

Shifty QB Anthony Brooks (573 yards, 6 TDs, 4 picks; 399 rushing yards, 6 TDs) and bulldozing back Andre Edwards (481 yards, 7 TDs) lead MC’s spread offense and are playmakers defensively as well.

With just 20 players, however, MC’s conditioning will again be tested. Ripon is averaging 340 rushing yards and 45 points per game.

 “MC has some very good players,” Johnson said. “They put up a lot of points and have a couple big-play guys on offense, and they are very aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. They have enough talent to beat anyone in our league.

Also tonight:

— After starting the season with four straight home games, East Union (0-1 Valley Oak League, 1-3 overall) finally hits the road as Kimball (0-1, 1-3) awaits in Tracy.

Injuries have hampered the Lancers, but there are winnable games ahead after they were fairly competitive in last week’s 28-8 loss to reigning VOL champion Oakdale.

Kimball was stomped by Sierra 44-7 and has had trouble scoring all season. To be fair, the Jaguars, who are averaging just 12 points, have lost to teams with a combined 11-1 record

— Eric Reis is after his 100th career win as head coach for his alma mater Manteca (1-0, 3-1), which hosts homecoming against Lathrop. The Spartans hope to tally their first win under new coach Steven Wichman but are heavy underdogs.

The Buffaloes are on a little roll after stomping two tradition-rich programs, Los Banos and Sonora, the past two weeks. Hard-luck Lathrop, however, is much improved from its winless 2012 campaign. Three of the Spartans’ losses were by eight points or less.

— Weston Ranch (1-0, 2-2) hopes to build off its momentum from its thrilling 35-29 win over Lathrop in the inaugural Battle of I-5. This week is homecoming for the Cougars, and they would love to cap it off with an upset of Oakdale (1-0, 2-2).

The Mustangs and their efficient wing-T were led by the backfield triumvirate of Max Stevens (109 yards, TD), Brock Whiting (95 yards, 2 TDs) and Tyler Williams (65 yards, TD) in last week’s victory at East Union.

Despite its modest record, which includes one-point losses to Turlock and Enterprise, Oakdale is favored to capture the league crown for a seventh straight year, according to the Bulletin’s annual media poll.

— Ripon Christian (1-0, 3-1) passed its first Southern League test last week by holding off Mariposa, 27-21.

The Knights will have it easier tonight when they entertain winless Denair at Modesto Christian. They will look to feast on a defense that has yielded an average of 49 points.