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Third shot at finals berth for RC
FB--RC playoff ADV file 2
Ripon Christian running back Andrew Brown could be the Sac-Joaquin Sections leading rusher this season after tonights Division VI semifinal game at Woodland Christian. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

RIPON – Ripon Christian hopes the old cliché “the third time is a charm” holds some type of truthfulness during tonight’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI semifinal matchup against No. 2-seeded Woodland Christian (9-1).

Tonight will mark the third consecutive year the Knights (9-2) have made it to the tournament’s final four and are once again one win away from reaching the championship.

Is there a playoff monkey on the back of third-seeded Ripon Christian?

The Knights’ first-year head coach Randy Fasani doesn’t think so.

“It’s another wonderful opportunity to make it to the section championship game,” he said. “However, we have to play a very well-coached team in Woodland Christian.”

This will also be the third year Ripon Christian has to travel for the semifinal round. In 2011, the Knights lost in Sacramento against this year’s No. 1 seed in Division VI Bradshaw Christian, 61-40.

Last year, Ripon Christian ran out of time during a road game against Foresthill in Placer County, losing 32-26 despite outscoring its opponent 26-8 in the second half and 14-0 in the fourth quarter.

The Knights’ record-breaking running back Andrew Brown and Co. will now have another shot at making it to the ninth-year program’s first-ever postseason finale.

“You never know what to expect,” Fasani said. “I just hope my team makes fewer mistakes than Woodland Christian does. When you get deep into the playoffs, the team that makes fewer mistakes usually wins.

“I’ve been preaching since Day One that the powerhouse programs in the Sac-Joaquin Section know they’re going to win when they enter every game, and that’s how I want our kids to think – that we’re going to win. If you think anything otherwise, you’ve essentially defeated yourself mentally.”

Ripon Christian’s only two losses have been blowouts against Ripon and Southern League champion Le Grand. After the Knights ended SL play with a 47-14 loss against the Bulldogs at Stouffer Field, RC got back on track offensively in the first round of the playoffs by eliminating Stone Ridge Christian last week, 50-20.

Ripon Christian spent a majority of Thursday’s practice preparing for Woodland Christian’s double-wing offense that has several different looks at thrives off misdirection.

“(Woodland Christian) head coach (Bruce Pielstick) was at Sacramento State for a long time, and their defensive coordinator was at UC Davis,” Fasani said. “It’s really hard to plan for them defensively because they run so many offensive formations and plays. However, we’re doing the best we can.”

Woodland Christian senior Chance Stocking (420 yards), sophomore KJ Barry (443 yards, 13 TDs) and Kameron Arnold (368 yards, 8 TDs) are the team’s leading ball carriers. Sophomore Jacob Naschke has totaled 262 yards on the ground as well.

While Ripon Christian will be forced to key in on several different running threats, Woodland Christian will certainly have its hands full trying to contain Brown – the Sac-Joaquin Section’s second-leading rusher heading into tonight.

RC’s leading rusher and receiver has tallied up 2,341 yards on the ground, only behind Central Valley’s JaQuan Gardner’s 2,467. With 117 rushing yards against Woodland Christian, Brown could seal up the section’s overall rushing title.

“I think we need to have a balanced offense and not just give Andrew the ball,” Fasani said. “Everybody keys on Andrew, but Billy Marr has been playing extremely well lately. Hopefully, (Woodland Christian) will be overlooking how well Billy has been playing.”

The junior Marr has emerged a standout this year, compiling 1,620 yards through the air and has tossed 17 touchdowns with five interceptions.

Woodland Christian has only one loss this year, a 32-20 defeat against Elliott Christian – the same Elliott Christian squad the Knights defeated 69-6 on the first game of the season Sept. 6.