RIPON — Le Grand running back Ryan Martinez rushed for 286 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Bulldogs to a convincing 47-14 win over Ripon Christian in a showdown for the Southern League title Friday night at Stouffer Field.
What's more, Martinez won his personal duel with Knights running back Andrew Brown, the second all-time leading rusher in The Modesto Bee's Stanislaus District.
"We've played against each other since pee-wee all-stars," said Martinez, who now has 1,854 yards rushing this season. "No statement ... just trying to do my job."
The opening 10 minutes of the contest set the game back decades. Ripon Christian quarterback Billy Marr threw an interception on the game's first play from scrimmage. Not to be outdone, Le Grand QB Frank Contreras threw one on the very next play. That was followed by a three-and-out from RC and a punt that traveled exactly 11 yards. The Bulldogs got the ball on the Knights' 27 and responded by turning over the ball on downs. Ripon Christian then went three-and-out again.
Martinez apparently decided enough was enough as he took over the game. The senior scored the game's first TD on a 25-yard run with 3:50 to play in the first quarter. After Ricardo Jacobo picked up a fumble and returned it 36 yards for a 13-0 Bulldogs lead, Martinez busted off a 40-yard TD run that made it 20-0. His third TD of the first half came on a 1-yard plunge into the end zone with just 18 seconds to play.
"Ryan is very strong and works very hard and watches a lot of film," said Le Grand coach Rick Martinez, who doubles as Ryan's father. "He's determined to put this team on his back and carry them."
Despite the 20-point halftime deficit, the Knights had their chances.
Trailing 20-0, Ripon Christian picked up its initial first down of the game when Marr hit Spencer Hower for a 27-yard gain. To that point, RC's biggest gain had been 8 yards. On the next play, Marr and Hower hooked up again, this time for 35 yards. But after creeping Le Grand's 10, the drive was halted on downs. A touchdown there would've been huge since the Knights scored minutes later when Marr hit Ethan McMurray on a wide-open post route from 26 yards out.
Any momentum RC gained was obliterated when Contreras completed his first pass of the game a 42-yard that Christian Williams snagged over two defenders, putting the ball at the 1. Martinez did the rest.
"We played the best small school team in our area," said Knights head coach Randy Fasani, a former quarterback at Stanford and in the NFL. "They proved that tonight.
"I said before the game I thought it would be won in the trenches. And sure enough, their offensive and defensive lines really played well."
Le Grand limited Brown, who came into the game with 2,034 yards rushing this season, to 121 yards on 25 carries. Brown had just 20 yards at halftime, and his first 10 carries of the game produced just 10 yards. His spectacular 67-yard TD run early in the third quarter was nullified by a holding penalty.
"Football is a game of ups and downs, highs and lows," said Brown. "If you can't recover from the lows, then you're not a quality football team. This will be motivation for (playoffs)."