By Ross Johnson

For The Union Democrat

The Sonora High School football team traveled to Ripon on Friday, taking control of the game early and scoring often, securing its first win of the season with a 48-33 advantage over Ripon High.

Senior quarterback Jake Gookin connected with senior running back Kane Rodgers for an over 40-yard touchdown pass with 9:07 left in the first quarter. After taking a 7-0 lead, the Wildcat defense held strong for the beginning of Ripon’s opening offensive drive.

Senior linebacker J.T. Kress tackled the ball carrier in the backfield to force a crucial 3 rd and 15 at Sonora’s 28-yard line. But on the next play, a Ripon wide receiver beat his defender and caught a pass for a touchdown. The point after kick fell short, keeping the Wildcats ahead 7-6.

The following Sonora drive faltered early with the Wildcats turning the ball over on downs. But the Sonora defense then forced a punt, and after getting the ball back, Gookin broke two tackles rushing from Ripon’s 26-yard line and scored with 10:39 left in the second quarter. A successful point after kick made the score 14-6.

Ripon’s offensive then marched down the field all the way to the Sonora one yard line, but the Wildcat defense held them to a crucial 4 th down and goal. Ripon decided to go for it, but a swarming Sonora defense brought the runner down in the backfield and turned the ball over on downs.

Rodgers then caught a 46-yard pass to open the ensuing Sonora drive. Poor Ripon tackling allowed Gookin to rush for 20 yards, and junior running back C.J. Castleman scored from the 16-yard line to put the Wildcats up 21-6 with just under three minutes remaining in the half. The Sonora defense then forced a three-and-out, and after receiving the punt the Wildcats put together a 60 yard drive to Ripon’s two yard line. On a 4 th and goal with less than 20 seconds remaining, Coach Bryan Craig made the call to go for it, and senior fullback Jack Camara pounded through the middle to score and put the Wildcats up 28-6 at halftime.

“I’m feeling a little bit better,” Craig said as his team jogged to the locker room. “We have to tackle a little bit better, and we have to take advantage of every scoring opportunity. We missed one there.”

The Wildcats scored again in the third quarter to go up 35-6, but Ripon returned the favor by scoring a 65-yard touchdown pass with 10:49 left in the fourth. A failed two point conversion attempt left the score at 35-12. After forcing the Wildcats to punt, Ripon scored again at the 8:52 mark. Another failed two point attempt kept the Wildcats up 35-18.

Rodgers then scored on the ground from 45 yards out, but a failed Wildcat two point attempt kept the score at 41-18. Ripon then scored on a 48-yard pass, then earned two extra points to make the score 41-26. Camara then broke loose on the ensuing Wildcat possession to put his team up 48-26. After getting the ball back, Ripon then drove down the field and scored on the ground from nine yards out, and a successful point after kick brought the score to 48-33, where the game ended.

“It’s nice to get our first win,” said Craig. “The first is always the hardest. It’s always tough to play a good team on their field. Our offense finally came alive and finally put things together.”

Sonora next hosts Hilmar High at Dunlavy Field at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15.