Ripon Christian football coach Phil Grams, shown here overseeing a practice before the start of the 2021 season, received a phone call from Permian High School in Odessa, Texas. Permian, of Friday Night Lights fame, was looking for an opponent for its homecoming game after a COVID-induced cancellation. (Manteca Bulletin)

'They'd pay us $7,000': Legendary Texas football program calls RC for a game

Ron Agostini

RIPON -- File under “And you thought you had heard everything.”

You haven’t.

We give you a must-be-kidding matchup that actually almost happened: Ripon Christian at Permian High of Odessa, Texas.

“I was telling my friends online about playing against the Friday Night Lights school,” RC athletic director Kevin Tameling mused.

The story begins with Permian, the football factory in a state where prep football is rated only slightly behind religion and barbecue. The Panthers have produced six state champions and one national champion, and they even have their own rallying cry.

When you say “Mojo” in Texas, you’re talking about the Permian Panthers. Their stadium holds 19,300. Their enrollment is 3,789.

And, of course, Permian has been immortalized by the 2004 movie “Friday Night Lights” and the television series from 2006 to 2011.

Permian, thrown sideways by a pandemic-induced cancellation, suddenly had no opponent for homecoming.  So it was followed, because of course it did, by a call to Ripon Christian in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The Knights had a bye date.

“They have a broker that schedules their games,” RC coach Phil Grams said. “We had about four days notice. They said they’d pay us $7,000 (which would cover airfare) and busing expenses in town.”

And about the big-versus-small matchup?

“They claimed they weren’t as good as they used to be,” Grams explained, “and that they would dress only 75 players.”

It didn’t take long for Ripon Christian to decline the offer, though Grams and school officials gave it some serious thought.

“In the back of my mind, had it been the first or second week, I would have seriously considered it. But not so close to league play,” he said. “It would have been a great opportunity.”

Then again, the safety of his players against such an oversized and acclaimed program – Texas rules also allow more blocking below the waist than California – eventually prevailed.

There will be no Mojo anxiety at Ripon Christian.

Notes – Bret Harte, which did not field a varsity football team this fall due to insufficient turnout, plans a return to varsity play in 2022. The Bullfrogs JV team, 35 players strong, is 3-0 going into Friday night’s game at Big Valley Christian. Brian Barnett, the Bret Harte athletic director and boys basketball coach, believes there is momentum building on campus for varsity games next fall at Dorroh Field. “I’m predicting we’ll have a varsity and a JV team next year,” said Barnett, a former four-sport Bret Harte star who played basketball two decades ago for Stanislaus State. “Our underclassmen are enthusiastic, and we lost only one football player due to transfer.” ...Barnett’s first hire as an AD was an interesting one – girls basketball coach William Reid, who played alongside Bill Cartwright and the powerhouse USF teams of the 1970s. …

Scott Sacuskie, the former athletic director and head football coach for Johansen, is the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Colorado Buffaloes of the Pacific 12 Conference. Sacuskie, who worked at East Union before he arrived at Johansen, was a strength and conditioning assistant at Stanford under coach Jim Harbaugh. …

Defensive lineman Antonio Pule, a two-year star at Modesto Junior College (2018-19), started for Washington State last weekend against USC. ….
Ripon Christian, 3-1 going into its Southern League opener Friday night against Orestimba (2-2, 0-1), has gotten a boost from 6-foot-2 junior quarterback Trey Fasani, the son of former RC head coach and Stanford quarterback Randy Fasani. The father coached the Knights to a 23-3 record in 2018 and ’19 but soon moved closer to his roots at Del Oro High.  Thankfully for the Knights, the Fasani’s retraced their steps back to Ripon Christian. Randy now serves as QB coach while Grams calls the shots in RC’s Fly offense fueled by Trey’s arm and athleticism. …

Quarterback Gino Campiotti, the former Manteca High star, has turned out to be a good bounceback pickup for MJC. Campiotti  earned a scholarship at Northern Arizona but  the Lumberjacks didn’t envision his future as a quarterback. “He still has some quarterback left in him,” said Kirk Peterson, the Pirates’ recruiting coordinator,” during last week’s Modesto Quarterback Club lunch.  “He’s everything you want in a quarterback.” The 13th-ranked Pirates, 2-1 after last weekend’s loss to City College of San Francisco, will be tested Saturday afternoon at Butte.