The Ripon and Sierra football teams will rekindle their rivalry in the marquee Zero Week game tonight.
The two regional heavyweights have met eight times dating back to 1996. Ripon won the inaugural contest, 13-7, but since then the rivalry has tilted in Sierra’s favor.
The Timberwolves own a 5-3 advantage in the series, but the two haven’t played each other in seven years.
That ends tonight.
Ripon coach Chris Johnson has beefed up his non-league schedule, adding a host of potential league champions. That list includes Sierra, a 2013 Sac-Joaquin Section playoff team and 2009 Valley Oak League co-champion.
Of course, these two programs aren’t strangers to one another. More like old acquaintances.
The on-again, off-again rivalry has featured a little bit of everything over the years, including a forfeit victory.
In 2003, Ripon running back Ryan Machado rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns in the first-ever game played at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. The Indians won that game, 39-6, but the victory was later turned over when it was learned they had used an ineligible player.
That was the last of four consecutive victories in the series for Sierra, which also won 31-0 in 2001 when the late Daniel Teicheira rushed for more than 200 yards.
After a four-year hiatus, the two programs locked horns again in 2006. Bobby Allsup tossed two TDs and the Indians had two running backs top the 100-yard mark in a show of force, 33-13.
The Timberwolves answered with a blowout of their own, cruising to victory in their last meeting in 2007. Quarterback Mike Garcia threw for 220 yards and three TDs in a 25-3 win.
Is there another memorable moment in store tonight? Kickoff is at 7 o’clock.
Here are four other storylines to follow when Ripon and Sierra lock horns for a ninth time:
Extreme home makeover
Expect a party atmosphere tonight as the 2014 season-opener coincides with Stouffer Field’s makeover reveal.
Fund-raising and renovations for the City of Ripon’s only football facility began seven looong years ago. Tonight, president Stephanie Hobbs and the Ripon Community Athletic Foundation get to put away the tools and take a well-deserved bow.
The celebration began with an intimate affair on Thursday evening. City leaders, politicians and other special guests joined the RCAF for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Once home to a dusty track and grass field, Stouffer Field has been modernized with an all-weather track, turf playing surface, wrought-iron entry gate, donor wall and LED scoreboard.
Where to draw the line?
Sierra has one of the area’s top linebacking corps, led by 2013 all-Valley Oak League selection Trevon McCray (88 tackles, 13 for a loss) and transfer L.J. Alofaituli.
Ripon quarterback Nick Price will be surrounded by a veteran offensive line that Johnson believes is the best he’s had in 10-plus years as coach.
Tonight, something will have to give.
The wild card to watch in this battle of strengths is Alofaituli, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound outside linebacker. He led Brookside Christian to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship as a sophomore in 2012, finishing with 35 tackles and three sacks.
Alofaituli missed all of last season, delaying his much-anticipated return to Sierra High and the Valley Oak League. He played at Sierra as a freshman.
Fugit: Is that Ysit 2.0?
Johnson believes running back Ryan Fugit can have the same impact as 2013 star and two-time Manteca Bulletin All-Area selection Michael Ysit.
How good was Ysit last fall? Chew on these numbers: Ysit averaged 15 yards per carry and reception; he scored 27 total touchdowns; and for good measure, finished with nine sacks.
More importantly, Ysit was at his best right out of the chute for the Indians. He scored three times on just 10 touches in a 52-0 rout of Bret Harte.
Sierra High’s Hunter Johnson was named to CalHiSports’ all-Sac-Joaquin Section second team earlier this week.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior was selected as a multi-purpose player. He is the only player from the area to appear on the list, which includes 65 players from Yuba City to Merced.
Johnson had 46 catches for 878 yards and 12 touchdowns during a breakout junior season. He contributed in all three phases for the Timberwolves and was named the Valley Oak League’s first-team punter.
This fall, Johnson’s length and sure hands will be invaluable to Sierra as it breaks in first-year quarterback Devin Nunez.