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Diminutive Duxbury carries heavy load for Ripon
Ripon running back Jaxob Duxbury tries to gain separation from Joshua Fala, Sierras massive 6-foot-6, 335-pound lineman, during a zero-week game on Aug. 29. - photo by File photo by SEAN KAHLER

SALIDA — The football field at Modesto Christian on Friday night was covered with players that fit the “big, strong and physical” mold. 

There were 300-pound linemen and hulking linebackers chewing up the middle of the field and wide receivers that could seemingly touch the moon, but few were tougher than the game’s smallest participant.

Ripon junior Jacob Duxbury checks in at 5 feet, 7 inches, and he weighs about as much as the bag that holds his gear. In fact, on the Indians’ 32-man roster there is only one player lighter than the 155-pound Duxbury.

In other words, he stands out … even if he doesn’t stand over the crowd. 

Though small in stature, Duxbury shoulders a tremendous burden. He is a two-way starter for the Indians, now 2-1 in Trans-Valley League play after a 44-30 loss to the Crusaders, and fills the void left by wingback Michael Ysit.

Ysit rushed for 1,525 yards and 21 touchdowns in Ripon’s hybrid Wing-T offense and was named the Bulletin’s Utility Player of the Year.

Duxbury isn’t putting up those kinds of numbers, but the potential is there. He is second on the team with 565 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns. He’s averaging 7 yards per carry, and like many of Ripon’s juniors, he’s getting stronger with each opportunity.

In the first three games of the season, Duxbury averaged less than 4 yards per carry. In the five since, he’s averaged 8.9 yards per touch.

On Friday, he carried the ball 14 times for a team-high 78 yards. He found those yards amongst the trees, too, picking his way through the Crusaders’ massive defensive front.

The mighty mite didn’t shy away from contact, either. He often met his tackler head-on, lowering his shoulder pads and falling forward for a few more yards.

Sometimes, though, it put him in a precarious situation. On his second carry of the game, Duxbury burst into the secondary on an 11-yard gain. He was met at the 10-yard line by the safety Luke Andrew, listed at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds.

Andrew picked Duxbury off his feet and slammed him to the turf like a professional wrestler. 

Duxbury popped up, because, well …

He’s tough. 

• • •

Indians move past loss, focused on beating rival 

Much has been said about Ripon’s beefed-up non-conference schedule. 

The Indians went 1-4 while breaking in a talent-rich but inexperienced junior class. Those losses strengthened the team bond, senior Ryan Fugit said, and helped set a level of expectation among the first-year varsity players.

It has also taught the Indians how to manage a defeat, much like the one they absorbed on Friday.

Ripon didn’t chew on the 44-30 loss long. Within minutes of the final whistle, the focus was already on Escalon, this Friday’s opponent.

“This is nothing new for us. We came out, fought and lost. Oh well,” head coach Chris Johnson said. “We’ll lick our wounds, watch the film and get better from it, and get ready for next week.

“Listen, if these kids were going to fold, they would have done it weeks ago. They’re tough kids and I’m proud of them.”

Despite the loss, Ripon remains in the hunt for one of the Trans-Valley League’s two automatic playoff berths and can bolster its bid with a win over Escalon.

The Cougars are 3-0 in league play after blasting Riverbank, 55-12. 

To have a chance, the Indians will have to shore up some of the mistakes that doomed them on Friday evening. Ripon fumbled on three consecutive possessions in the first half, allowing Modesto Christian to build a 21-point lead. The Indians were also penalized seven times. 

“We haven’t made those mistakes for a few weeks,” Johnson said. “We’ve gotten better and better. We just did some dumb things like jump offsides, the fumbles and things like that. We reverted a little this week.”

• • •

Lancer throwback: Party like it is 1974

If you were a player or coach with East Union’s 1974 varsity football team, the school would like to invite you to a celebration on Friday, Oct. 31, at Dino Cunial Field. East Union will honor the Valley Oak League champions – and only team in school history to finish the regular season undefeated – prior to the varsity game against Weston Ranch. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Please RSVP with head coach Willie Herrera at 

• • •

Ticket prices for Manteca vs. Sierra

Ticket prices for Friday’s Manteca-Sierra sophomore and varsity football games at Guss Schmiedt Field have been set.

Adults will be charged $8, while Manteca students with an ID card, elementary students without an adult, members of the MHS Athletic Boosters Club and seniors 65 years and older will be charged $5.

Admission for Sierra High students with an ID and elementary students accompanied by an adult will be $4. Children 5 and under are free.

The varsity game will kick off at 7 p.m.