WEEK 5 PREDICTIONS
East Union (1-3) at Sierra (3-1): Coming off a staggering loss to Oakdale, Sierra looks to right the ship on Homecoming night against a confident rival that dominated Lathrop for its first win (38-15, Sierra).
Weston Ranch (2-2) at Manteca (2-2): Buffalo RB Eddie Smith is on a roll behind a now-healthy line, and the defense faces an offense that averaged 12.3 points over its last three games (35-13, Manteca).
Lathrop (0-4) at Sonora (2-2): The road does not get any easier for the struggling Spartans, who square off with a physical and battle-tested Sonora team (34-7, Sonora).
Ripon (5-0) at Modesto Christian (3-2): Ripon outlasted an Escalon squad that relies on its strength last week. The Indians also have the depth and speed to run with MC’s fleet athletes (34-26, Ripon).
Ripon Christian (3-1) at Denair (0-4): Denair has scored only six points in four games, while RC is fresh off an emphatic win over traditional SL contender Mariposa (33-6, RC).
Last week: 6-0 (24-2 overall).
Most of the Trans-Valley League’s best athletes will converge on Modesto Christian’s Roy Blakely Field this Friday.
Undefeated Ripon High, coming off a statement win over defending champion Escalon, is set for its big showdown with the Crusaders (3-2), who also earned an impressive victory in their league opener. Modesto Christian took it to Hilmar 32-21, which upset Escalon to capture the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title last season.
“MC is a very athletic team, the most athletic we have seen this year,” Ripon coach Chris Johnson said. “Our teams are very similar and it will come down to who makes the least mistakes.
“They have some receivers that are going to be tough matchups for anyone. They have speed at all skill positions and are better up front than they have been in years.”
Luckily for Ripon, it too has its share of bruisers in the trenches and playmakers at the skill spots. That was on full display in its 34-27 win over Escalon, which managed to tie it late after trailing 28-7 early in the fourth quarter.
While much of the attention, from both media and opposing defenses, going to third-year standouts Anthony Baciocco (RB/CB) and Cole Herrin (RB/CB) along with fellow seniors Josh McCreath (RB/LB) and Kyle Wengel (QB), it took some breakout efforts from others for the Indians to end a 16-year losing streak to their traditional rival.
With Herrin, who is a game-time decision for Friday’s game with a high-ankle sprain, still hobbled with an injury, juniors Bradley Clark and Michael Ysit took their turn in the spotlight in a big way.
Clark exploded for 113 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. Ysit rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown on just four attempts and caught four passes for 89 yards and another score.
It was Clark’s 34-yard pass play with 55.9 seconds left that put Ripon up for good.
“Bradley and Michael are exceptional,” Johnson said. “They are extremely hard working kids who just get it. They have a great sense of the game and a real knack for being at the right spot. At the end of the day they just make plays.”
Johnson also singled out free safety Josh Clark, ILB/G Troy Burth, RB/SS Michael Morris and OL/DL Kody Day — all juniors — for their unsung contributions. Both Day and Morris started as sophomores last year.
Senior linebacker Tyler Swortfiguer anchors the defense with 58 tackles, and nearly half of them (27) came against Escalon.
“It may sound cliché, but our coaches and players believe in the power of the team,” Johnson said. “No one of us is more important than the other. Everyone does their job, and no matter who suits up for us they will play with a great attitude and give their best effort.”
Ripon has a tough stretch to start TVL play, including next week’s Homecoming matchup with Hughson (3-1) followed by Hilmar (4-1).
The Indians, of course, aren’t looking that far ahead.
Modesto Christian, always dangerous for its all-around athletic ability, is a change of pace to what Ripon saw this past Friday.
Crusader QB Zack Megee torched the Yellowjackets (4-1) for 192 yards on 12 of 23 passing and two touchdowns in a breakout effort. He also rushed for 116 yards while Hilmar focused on stopping hard-running JaVaughn Iversen. For the season, the 5-foot-11, 183-pound Iversen has 342 yards (8 per carry) and three touchdowns. Andre Edwards (313 yards) and Anthony Brooks (164 yards, 2 TDs) are also threats out of the backfield.
Damien Bell-White, a 6-foot-4 standout, is Megee’s top target, but he can also rely on tight end Zach O’Leary and any of his running backs in the passing game.
Modesto Christian’s two losses came on the road against traditional powerhouses — a 48-20 setback to Cardinal Newman in Santa Rosa in their season opener, and a tough 37-30 defeat at Calaveras.
East Union at Sierra
Sierra (3-1) celebrates Homecoming at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium after a humbling 49-7 loss to Oakdale. East Union (1-3), meanwhile, is coming off its first win — 28-7 over Lathrop — following a brutal nonleague schedule that the Lancers hope have them ready for the VOL powers.
Sierra has beaten EU eight straight years and leads the all-time series, 12-5. The Timberwolves took last year’s crosstown battle decisively by a 46-12 margin, and that was without workhorse back Anthony Cota. Now fully recovered from the forearm injury, Cota (582 yards, 12 TDs) and the Timberwolves will look to get back on track offensively after he was held to under 150 yards (45 on 15 carries) for the first time this season.
The Lancers, who also operate out of a spread offense, is getting good production out of RB Mark Aguilar, and sophomore QB Lucas Garcia is coming off his best game (2 TD passes, 1 rushing) of the season.
Weston Ranch at Manteca
The Buffaloes (2-2) avoided a three-game losing streak with an important 42-25 win at Kimball.
With their offensive line at full health, RB Eddie Smith grinded out a second-straight 200-yard effort, and this one came with five touchdowns. He now leads area rushers with 650 yards to go with 10 scores.
Weston Ranch also has to worry about multi-dimensional QB Ryan Fox, who is Manteca’s second-leading rusher (150 yards, 3 TDs) and has developed a good chemistry with WR TJ Galdos (255 yards, 4 TDs) in an efficient passing attack.
The Cougars, who have yet to beat Manteca in eight years, hope to get their offense untracked after averaging 12.3 points over their previous three contests.