Ripon's Roland Davis was instrumental in the Indians' come-from-behind victory over Modesto Christian on Oct. 26, 2018. (Wayne Thallander)

Best foot forward: Injured kicker shakes off pain, shakes up small-school poll

James Burns

EDITOR’S NOTE: The small-school rankings are comprised of teams from the Central California Athletic Alliance, Mother Lode League, Southern League and Trans-Valley League. Last week’s ranking and current record in parenthesis.

1. (3) Ripon (9-1, 5-1): The Indians ascended to No. 1 for the second time this season after a thrilling, last-minute victory over Modesto Christian. Junior Nathan Valdez kicked the game-winning, title-clinching field goals as Ripon stormed back from a 15-0 deficit. Next: Bye, Division V playoffs.

t-2. (2) Escalon (8-2, 4-2): You could make a compelling argument that the Cougars should be No. 1 in the final poll, because they own the head-to-head with the Indians. However, Escalon’s climb in this poll was blocked by losses to Modesto Christian and Hilmar. Next:  Bye, Division VI playoffs.

t-2. (1) Modesto Christian (9-1, 4-1): The Crusaders fall into a tie for No. 2 with the Cougars after relinquishing a two-score lead in their regular-season finale. As strong as Modesto Christian has looked, the offense struggled in the red zone and final quarter against the Indians. Next: Bye, Division VI playoffs.

4. (4) Ripon Christian (10-0, 7-0): Michael Kamps rushed for more than 200 yards and the defense recorded its second straight shutout, completing the Knights first-ever undefeated regular season with a 54-0 win over Delhi. It’s also the first league title since 2012. Next: Bye, Division VI playoffs.

5. (5) Hilmar (8-2, 4-2): The Yellowjackets rushed for 444 yards in a 41-7 victory over Livingston. Isaac Sharp led the charge with 140 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries. Next: Bye, Division VI playoffs.

6. (6) Denair (9-1, 6-1): The Coyotes wrapped up one of the greatest regular seasons in school history. With a 60-26 victory over Waterford, Denair won its ninth game — the most in a single season in the MaxPreps era. Next: Bye, Division VII playoffs.

7. (7) Sonora (6-4, 5-0): After a disappointing first four weeks of the season, the Wildcats’ resiliency was rewarded with its fifth straight MLL title and a top seed in the Division V playoffs. Sonora closed the regular season with a rivalry win over Summerville. Next: Bye, Division V playoffs.

8. (8) Orestimba (7-3, 5-2): Records are falling on the West Side. Aaron Souza became the school’s all-time winningest coach with his 61st career victory, breaking a tie with Roger Pauletto. Quarterback Jacob Bettencourt (30) and wide reciever Tyler Vargas (17) also set school records for touchdowns in a single-season. Next: at Los Banos, Division V playoffs.

9. (9) Big Valley Christian (9-1, 6-0): Javyn Drobnick became the region’s 16th member of the 2,000-yard club in a 49-6 win over Sierra Ridge/Rite of Passage. Drobnick rushed for 175 yards and three TDs and now has 2,066 yards, third-best in the section. Next: Bye, Division VII playoffs.

10. (10) Calaveras (6-4, 4-1): John Arbuckle rushed for 315 yards and four touchdowns in a “Big Game” victory over rival Bret Harte. After starting the season 0-3, Calaveras won six of its last seven games. Next: vs. Highlands, Division VI playoffs.

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