The junior varsity Ripon Chiefs continued their two-year winning streak Saturday with a 40-24 win over their rival Escalon Outlaws in the Valley Division of the Motherlode Valley Football League playoffs.
They will defend the Super Bowl championship when they face the Calaveras Jr. Redskins this Saturday at Escalon High School at 4 p.m.
Escalon struck first by returning the opening kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown, but the Outlaws success was short-lived. The Chiefs responded with a 55-yard drive capped by a 1-yard scoring plunge by Dorian Dougherty (10 carries, 61yards, touchdown).
The Ripon defense then took over with a fourth-down stop by Leobardo Ochoa, Caleb Delgado and Dorian Dougherty, the team’s first of three fourth-down stops of the day. Two plays after that first stop Nico Ilardi threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Hernandez (two catches, 65yards, two touchdowns) for a 16-8 lead and the Chiefs never trailed again.
Gunnar Bertsch was the workhorse for Ripon with 10 carries for 69 yards. Nico Ilardi (6 of 7 passing, 126 yards, two touchdowns) ran for a 2-yard touchdown and Aiden Benzinger (six carries, 54yards) added a 10-yard touchdown run. Nathan Valdes was 5 for 5 on conversion kicks.
Chiefs 18, Waterford Sabercats 13
The Chiefs handed the Sabercats their first loss of the season while qualifying for the Super Bowl.
Jackson Holt was 3 for 3 passing for 130 yards with two touchdowns and all three passes going to Blake Nichelson. Isaiah San Nicholas and Jack Gioffre also had strong games on offense for the Chiefs.
The difference in the game was the dominant performance by the offensive line — Brayden Bodeson, Camryn Arriola, Marcus Van Dyken, Logan Rines and Luis Acosta — with help from tight ends Ethan Day and Jory Sarratt.
Waterford came in to the game riding a scoring frenzy of more than 30 points per game and was held to just one offensive touchdown. Caleb Johnston switched from his normal position of defensive end to outside linebacker and had an outstanding game. Isaiah San Nicholas and Blake Nichelson both added an interception on defense.
The Chiefs will begin their Super Bowl game Saturday at 2 p.m. at Escalon High.