Turlock defensive end Devin Bradley celebrates a stop by the Bulldogs' defense during a season-opening win over Freedom of Oakley on Aug. 23, 2019. The Bulldogs return home to face another Bulldog this Thursday -- Tracy High, its annual Dogbone rival. (Samantha Schmidt)

Ripon upsets heavily favored Center to win first Sac-Joaquin Section banner since 1996

Independent Contributor
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It is said that offense wins games and defense wins championships, so it was only fitting that No. 2 Ripon’s Grant Wiebe came up with a huge sack Saturday to kill top-seeded Center of Antelope’s last drive and give the Indians the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship with a 21-13 come-from-behind win at Sacramento City College’s Hughes Stadium, the first blue banner for Ripon since 1996.

The Indians will await the decision of the CIF state office on Sunday to see where they will play their first-ever state playoff game next weekend.

Wiebe, an outside linebacker, blitzed on fourth down with 19 yards to go for a first down and 47 seconds showing on the fourth-quarter clock, giving the ball back to Ripon (12-1) with his second sack of the day.

“Coach decided to send me,” Wiebe said. “I was going with everything I had. I was doing everything I could to help us get the section championship.”

The Cougars (12-1) scored in the third quarter to take a 13-7 lead, but they would not get a 14th point as Nathan Valdez atoned from an earlier missed field goal by blocking the Center point-after attempt.

“I had to come back from my mistake,” Valdez said. “That felt pretty good and it evened things out a little bit.”

Ripon’s Troy Brogan was a big target for Nico Ilardi (10 of 12 passes, 190 yards, touchdown, interception), hauling in four receptions for 82 yards. Brogan was also part of the suffocating Indians defense from his end position.

“We knew coming in that they had never seen a defensive line get pressure like we do,” Brogan said. “We knew if we got that pressure and contained to the inside we would be all right.”

Ripon coach Chris Musseman thought his defense set the tone early on when Center went for first down on fourth down and 4 yards to go for a first from its own 36.

“When they went for it on fourth down in their own territory and we stopped them there that was the end of the game,” Musseman said. “Our kids figured out that they thought they were that much better than us and we were not going to let that happen.

“Defensively for the most part our game plan went as planned. They did some things at the goal line we weren’t prepared for and offensively we knew we could run it on them a little bit and that they were susceptible to the play action, so we ran more play-action passes than we have run all season.”

Ilardi did not play much defense, but when he did he made it count. He knocked away a deep pass that would have given the Cougars an opportunity to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.

With Ilardi scrambling to keep drives alive, Brandon Rainer made two receptions for 73 yards, both on third down and both in the third quarter.

“Those passes to Rainer was just ducking players, scrambling and then him getting open,” Ilardi said. “He is a great athlete and he just got open.”

Danny Hernandez (12 carries, 62 yards) scored twice for the Indians – once on a 19-yard run in the first quarter after he had been trapped behind the line for what appeared to be a loss and the other to cap the scoring late in the fourth quarter on a a 1-yard plunge. Ilardi connected with Dorian Dougherty on a 19-yard touchdown pass earlier in the fourth period to put Ripon ahead 14-13.