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By Melissa Blanton
The Union Democrat
Calaveras and Ripon high schools had a few things in common Friday night.
Both were in search of a second-round win in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division V playoffs.
Both went 4-1 in league play.
But Ripon would come out on top, ending Calaveras’ hopes of another playoff run.
Calaveras lost just one game during the regular season. But Ripon proved to be stiff competition, something head coach Jason Weatherby said didn’t come as a surprise.
“They’re a good team. We knew it coming in,” he said.
As pregame activities got underway, the head official had a piece of advice for both teams.
“Let’s have fun tonight.”
Calaveras won the toss and deferred to the second half.
Fans hunkered into their blankets and sweaters as No. 2 Calaveras sent their kick sailing.
Ripon started their night on their own 23 yard line.
On an early third and long Ripon’s quarterback Ryan Daggett found Michael Winters for a 13-yard gain.
Ripon spent their early downs testing the Calaveras middle defense, who answered the call, forcing Daggett to rely on the passing game for yardage.
Ripon junior Roland Davis is listed at 5-feet, 9-inches and 155 on the team roster, but he played bigger as he chipped away at Calaveras defenders, helping the Indians make their way into Calaveras territory.
Calaveras stopped a fourth down attempt and took over on downs with 5:33 left in the first quarter.
They started their night offensively with a Kyle Byrd to Tanner Joses handoff. Ripon was able to bottle up the middle and hold him to a two-yard gain. After another short gain, Byrd was sacked, setting up a fourth and five.
Calaveras’ Byrd punted the ball and Ripon took over at their 43 with 3:28 left in the first quarter.
With senior John Kelley in hot pursuit Ripon’s Daggett was forced to throw the ball away. Ripon attempted the fourth down conversion but the ball bounced out of the hands and off the helmet of the receiver.
Calaveras took over at their 37 with seconds left in what was a speedy first quarter. It was 7:17 p.m. as the second quarter began. The game was going so quickly, the play caller hadn’t had time to advertise the tri-tip tent, snack bar, potato bar or the French Club’s crepe fundraiser.
On the first play of the second quarter Byrd heaved a pass down the field, but Ripon junior Justin Hansen made a leaping interception.
Daggett struck first on the scoreboard, keeping the ball on the next play and, with help from a half dozen blockers, he sped up the left side and into the endzone. The point after was good and Ripon took a 7-0 lead with 11:34 left in the first half.
Calaveras’ Joses strung together a series of lengthy running plays to move the ball into Ripon territory. And Byrd, on a quarterback keeper, carried the ball into the red zone.
Chance Norton was unable to haul in a pass in the flats from Byrd, and Calaveras opted for a field goal attempt on fourth and nine.
A high snap gave Ripon just enough time to cover the ball’s air space and block the kick.
WIth 6:30 left in the half it was Indians ball on the Ripon 20.
Calaveras forced a three and out. And after what Ripon fans and coaches were certain was an illegal block in the back during the kickoff return, Calaveras scored on the play, evening up the game at 7-7 with 4:55 left in the half.
Third and inches. Third and one. Ripon steadily moved the ball into Calaveras territory. Ripon turned to a hurry-up offense, taking advantage of the final minute of first half play.
With 28 seconds left, Daggett again found Davis for a touchdown. Ripon took a 14-7 lead.
The Indians then sent a pooch kick to the right and Trey Ringlein carried the ball to the 32.
Byrd made three passing attempts near and in the endzone, but Ripon defenders nearly intercepted one and batted the next two as time expired in the first half.
“We got 17 plays in the first half. That’s not a good offensive outing. We needed to sustain drives, Weatherby said.
Calaveras came out pounding in the second half. Behind the strong running game of Joses, Calaveras moved to the Ripon 29 yard line with a minute and a half off the clock.
That’s about how long it took Ripon to settle back into their sturdy defensive play.
On a second down running play, Byrd took a hefty hit near the sideline, but was able to leave the field on his own.
Junior Zach Nordahl came in as quarterback to run the third and nine play but the reverse left them with a fourth and four. Joses was stopped just short of a first down, giving Ripon the ball on their own 22 yard line.
The Ripon offense on their first possession of the second half was bruising. The clash of helmets to pads echoed off the aluminum stands as the Indians again picked their way into Calaveras territory.
Ripon ran a double handoff, but Calaveras saw it quickly, setting up a fourth and long.
A Daggett-to-Winters pass moved the ball into the red zone.
Ripon nearly lost possession after Calaveras’ Triston Madsen jarred the ball loose from the Ripon ball carrier. Ripon recovered the fumble as the third quarter ended.
Ripon faced a third and four on the 10 to start the final quarter of one team’s football season.
Then came a fourth and one and decision time for Ripon.
They made the conversion and earned a first and goal.
Next play? Touchdown Ripon on a run from Riley Machado. Point after, also good.
The Indians led 21-7 with 10:51 left in the game.
Nordahl remained in the game at the quarterback position as Calaveras took over again on offense. A long pass up the left was tipped and picked off by Ripon’s Hansen. Calaveras’ Joses was shaken up on the play and had to leave the game.
Losing both Byrd and Joses affected the team, Weatherby said.
“It affected confidence is what it affected. That’s pretty much it,” he said.
Ripon scored again from on a 51-yard running play up the right. The kick was good and Ripon extended their lead to 28-7 with 7:59 left in the game.
Ripon got called on a chop block on the next Calaveras offensive series. The spot foul moved Calaveras up to the Ripon 25 yard line.
Nordahl found Logan Arledge in the endzone but the ball bounced out of his hands to set up a fourth and seven with 6:03 left.
On the conversion attempt, Chance Norton twisted his way up to the three yard line. He got the call on the next play, too, running the ball in for a Calaveras touchdown. Ripon stopped the point after attempt, and the score was 28-13 with 5:48 to go.
Ripon moved into clock munching play calls after an onside kick put them at their own 37 yard line to start the series.
Ripon tossed in a ball-hidden-behind-the-back trick play to extend the series and run out the remaining seconds.
In less than two hours, No. 7 Ripon toppled No. 2 Calaveras 28-13. They’ll move on to play No. 6 Bear River next Friday.
After the loss, Calaveras coaches huddled at midfield with their team. Weatherby said his message to them was a simple one.
“Take the lessons that they learned and apply them to their life.”