RIPON – A train raced down the nearby Southern Pacific tracks as the Ripon Christian High Knights bounced onto the field Friday night to celebrate an important Southern League victory.
Even the Knights’ own train horn added to the high volume as the home team, remembering its loss to Orestimba a year ago, avenged it by dispatching the Warriors 42-12.
“Our kids just love playing football,” Ripon Christian coach Phil Grams said. “They play for the joy of the game, and they show it. And they like being physical.”
Underline Grams’ final point. Then underline it again.
The Knights (4-1,2-0) controlled the game with a clinical but lethal ground game that produced 232 yards and four touchdowns, three by Brady Grondz (18 carries, 102 yards).
Grondz, a third-year senior on the varsity, has felt both victory and defeat during the Orestimba rivalry. Last year’s loss swung the SL title to the Warriors. This year’s victory may bring it back to Ripon Christian, the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII champion.
“We opened with power, power and power,” Grondz said. “We wanted to power it to them from the beginning.”
The result was touchdowns on Ripon Christian’s first three possessions – two 8-yard bursts by Grondz and a 10-yarder by Trevor Van Elderen. It wasn’t fancy or pretty but, to the Knights, it looked perfect.
The third drive, ignited by Grondz's fumble recovery, showed why Ripon Christian will be a season-long beast. After all that inside strength, pitches and fly-sweeping, the Knights pulled out another weapon – sophomore quarterback Mason Tameling’s 26-yard lob to 6-foot-9 Jace Beidleman where only he could have caught it. Van Elderen scored three plays later.
Tameling and Beidleman connected again for a 13-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. That’s RC’s secret sauce.
“Spread inside and out,” Grams said.“Horizontal to go vertical.”
Orestimba (2-3, 1-1) did leave with a consolation prize after trailing 28-0. Devon Bell’s 37-yard touchdown reception over the middle from quarterback Jacob Valenzuela was the first points allowed by Ripon Christian in four games.
The Knights chased and bothered Valenzuela all night and contained running back Juan Esquivez (16 carries, 83 yards) until late in the game. Linebackers Van Elderen and Preston Zuidervaart and sophomore safety Amos Cady anchored that stingy defense. Ripon Christian outgained Orestimba 372-211.
“They beat us up-front. They were more physical than us,” Orestimba coach Aaron Souza said. “Hat’s off to them (Ripon Christian). That’s what they do.”
Three weeks ago during its loss to Los Banos, Orestimba (2-3, 1-1) was sobered by the loss of dynamic senior quarterback Alex Millan. He underwent surgery for a broken collarbone last week, and coach Aaron Souza called his potential return “an iffy thing.”
“We (Orestimba and RC) obviously are in the same playoff bracket this year,” Souza said. “We hope to get healthy, fix some things and hope to see these guys (Ripon Christian) again in late November.”
That’s a long leap into the future, however, and one thing seems certain. If Orestimba reaches the postseason, Ripon Christian may be there waiting.
Ripon Christian 42, Orestimba 12
Ripon Christian 7-14-7-14—42
RC—Brady Grondz 8 run (Ethan Schenk kick)
RC—Grondz 8 run (Schenk kick)
RC – Trevor Van Elderen 10 run (Schenk kick)
RC – Grant Sonke 2 run (Schenk kick)
O—Devon Bell 37 pass from Jacob Valenzuela (pass failed)
RC—Jace Beidleman 13 pass from Mason Tameling (Schenk kick)
O—Dylan McCauley 15 pass from Valenzuela (pass failed)
RC—Grondz 15 run (Schenk kick)
Records—Orestimba 2-3, 1-1 in SL; Ripon Christian 4-1, 2-0 in SL.
JV—Ripon Christian, 21-14